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Youth Opportunities Programme

Volume 32: debated on Thursday 25 November 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people are currently engaged in the youth opportunities programme in Northern Ireland.

The youth opportunities programme in Northern Ireland is being phased out and replaced by the youth training programme.

At the end of October 1982 there were 5,412 young people still engaged in the youth opportunities programme. The new comprehensive youth training programme, under which schemes generally began on 20 September, has got off to an excellent start, and by the end of October 6,417 young people were in training.

Is the Minister aware of reports of a lack of consultation with the trade unions and education boards about the employment of youths in those schemes?

There has been no intent not to consult. I agree that the trade union movement declined to take part in the Manpower Advisory Council, which is especially involved with the youth training programme. I am glad that, as a result of recent consultations, that will change. The full participation of the trade union movement in, and its support for, the programme is essential for the programme's success.

Does the Minister agree that the figures he has given are utterly derisory as there are 130,000 unemployed people in Northern Ireland? Does he agree also that it was the absence of any schemes to give employment to disaffected youth in Northern Ireland that led to the very problem that the Secretary of State has condemned—the complete alienation of young people in Northern Ireland, especially those in my constituency?

My figures about the youth training programme are extremely encouraging. Next year, everyone in the 16 and 17-year-old age group will either be in full-time education, or have a job or, if they wish, participate in the youth training programme. That is excellent news.

With regard to what the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fin) said, what is the Minister training those young people for?

It is an easy jibe to ask what is the good of putting those people in the programme if there is no job for them at the end of it. I recognise that even at the end of the programme there will be some who do not immediately get a job.

It is clear from the operation of, for example, the youth opportunities programme that such schemes, especially the new youth training programme, which is more comprehensive and thorough than previous ones, prepare young people better for their adult and working life. With regard to the prospects for Northern Ireland industry, we shall have a considerably better trained work force that should be more attractive to inward investors.