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Young People (Employment Support)

Volume 531: debated on Monday 18 July 2011

We are doing three things to help young people into work. Our work experience scheme will provide an opportunity for up to 100,000 young people to get their first taste of the workplace over the next two years. We have launched tens of thousands of new apprenticeships that are designed to build a career for young people. Through the Work programme, we are providing specialist back-to-work support for those who are struggling to get into work, the longer-term unemployed and those who come from the most challenging backgrounds.

In an area like Great Yarmouth, which has above average unemployment and in some cases third generation unemployment, those projects are hugely important in getting young people back into work. To help promote the opportunities for businesses, will the Minister outline how many people have undertaken and will undertake work experience this year?

The latest figures show that at the end of the first quarter, give or take, about 10,000 young people had so far benefited from our work experience scheme. Employers have so far committed to provide about 35,000 places. I am very optimistic that the scheme will deliver real opportunities for young people, some of whom have started to get into work through the placements.

Unemployment in the ’80s and ’90s was devastating for young people and gave us a generation with no jobs, no hope and no future. Has the Minister evaluated how much long periods of unemployment for a young person cost the UK economy?

There is no doubt that long periods of unemployment for young people are damaging both economically and to them personally. The hon. Lady will therefore welcome the fact that youth unemployment is lower today than it was at the time of the general election. I hope and believe that the specialist support that we are providing through the Work programme, the placements that we are providing through our work experience scheme and the extra apprenticeships for young people will make further inroads into that total.

I had the pleasure of visiting a small engineering business in Meltham a week ago. It has a big contract for making the suspension for the Ocelot Land Rover, and it is going to employ an extra 50 people over the coming 12 months. Can we learn lessons from the previous Government, who left power with 250,000 more young people unemployed, so that we can ensure that as private companies expand and take on workers, they give real emphasis to employing young people?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and that is why the extra apprenticeships that we have launched are so important. His experience is the same as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy)—who is no longer in his place—at whose jobs fair several leading engineering companies were looking for young people. If we deliver the apprenticeship opportunities, the private sector is out there ready to create the jobs for young people.

With people living longer and being employed in jobs longer, with people coming in from outside this country and taking up the cheap labour jobs, and with there being no law in effect that means that anyone taking up an apprenticeship has to be below a certain age, what is the right hon. Gentleman going to do in the years ahead to ensure that young people get employed?

The hon. Gentleman is, of course, describing some of the failings of the previous Government. What we have to do is ensure that we have a work-ready, well-trained work force of all ages, ready to take advantage of the opportunities that arise, when they arise. We can do that through more apprenticeships, through the specialist support in the Work programme, and through work experience placements that give young people their first taste of the workplace. I am delighted to say that youth unemployment is lower today than it was when his party left office.