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Youth Unemployment

Volume 529: debated on Monday 13 June 2011

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that unemployment will fall from its current level of 2.5 million to around 2 million by 2015. There is no separate forecast for youth unemployment, but over the medium term this would be expected to follow a broadly similar trend.

Fewer than 14% of my constituents are aged between 18 and 24, but this age group accounts for 35% of people looking for work. What is the Minister doing to ensure that private contractors in the new Work programme will not simply cherry-pick those areas of the country where it is easier to get young people into work and ignore areas performing less well economically, such as my constituency?

I would like to reassure the hon. Gentleman. One of the things that we wondered as we went in to the contracting process was whether we would see a difference in the level of interest between different areas of the country, depending on the nature of the local labour market. That was not the case: the competition was equally intense across all areas. I hope that the presence of the Work programme, offering young people support after nine months—and in some cases after three months—of unemployment, combined with the additional support that we are providing though Jobcentre Plus to provide work experience opportunities for young people, will make a significant difference to their prospects as the months go by.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best way to deal with youth unemployment is not just through the 250,000 apprenticeships, but the roll-out of the 24 university technical pre-apprenticeship schools around the country?

I do indeed agree. Those schools, the increased numbers of apprenticeships, the work experience scheme, the support being provided through the Work programme and the additional measures we have announced recently to support 16 to 18-year olds all show that we have a Government who recognise the problem of youth unemployment, understand its severity and are doing something about it.

Does the Minister think that the record level of youth unemployment has been made worse by the botched ending of the Connexions career service, which was withdrawn with no replacement put in place? No transition plan has yet been put into place.

The hon. Gentleman talks about the causes of youth unemployment. He should look back to when the current increase started in 2003-04, in the good years under the previous Government. He should ask why their policies failed so badly.