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Young People (Employment or Education)

Volume 594: debated on Monday 9 March 2015

Work coaches offer all claimants tailored support from day one of their claim. Claimants in need of experience are guided towards work experience or sector-based work academies, and those who require more focused training are supported through traineeships and apprenticeships.

One barrier to young people seeking employment is that they do not necessarily have the correct skills required to take up the opportunities on offer. Will my right hon. Friend work with colleagues in the Department for Education and across the Jobcentre Plus network to ensure that local schools and colleges are aware of the skills that local employers need?

My hon. Friend is right and we must make sure that young people are properly equipped for the world of work. I know of an ex-business man who ran a family business in printing. He knew who came through his door, which included young people who he wanted to give a job to, but they needed what people call “soft skills” and I like to call “core skills” for employability. We are working with the Department for Education on a new careers and enterprise company, and through the Inspiring The Future initiative young people are meeting business people to get a feel for what business and employment is all about, and we must support them as best we can. As my hon. Friend will know, we have increased work experience considerably and introduced sector-based work academies to that end.

Will the Minister welcome the initiative that has been set up in my constituency with support from DWP and the local Gillingham football club, along with Medway Watersports, to provide young people with skills and positive experiences to assist them in securing employment or further training?

I welcome the fact that my hon. Friend is working closely with Gillingham football club and its chairman, Paul Scally, who recently launched that help for young people, which is key. Various community and sports groups up and down the country are helping young people through the flexible support fund, and that should be highlighted. As many people as possible coming together to support young people into employment is key.

If things are going so well, will the Minister explain why youth unemployment has risen by more than 33,000 in the last two months, including a 10% rise in my constituency, which is not too far from hers?

I would like to get the record straight for the right hon. Gentleman because youth unemployment has fallen on the year, and has fallen considerably since 2010 by nearly 200,000. That is down to the work of this Government. There was a small rise of 3,000 in the last month, but the trend for unemployment is consistently downwards and the claimant count has fallen every month for the past 38 months—the Opposition would die to be able to deliver youth unemployment like that.

This week, at an event in my constituency, young people will be talking about how the world can improve for them, especially in terms of access to work. Why does the Minister think that youth unemployment has been rising while overall unemployment has been falling in recent months?

Again, I need to correct the record. It would be helpful if Opposition Members looked at the true youth unemployment numbers, which are down on the year and down nearly a fifth since 2010. Opposition Members delivered an increase in youth unemployment of 45%. Please stop scaremongering, get the facts right and go and help young people into jobs.

I hope the Minister will at least take some note of her own UK Commission for Employment and Skills, which points out that the UK now has German levels of adult unemployment, but eurozone levels of youth unemployment. Some 40% of unemployed people in the UK are under 25. Youth Contract wage incentives failed and were scrapped eight months early last summer. Does she have any new plans to tackle the very high level of youth unemployment—nearly three times the level of adult unemployment—which, as my hon. Friends have rightly pointed out and contrary to what she has been telling us, has gone up in the past couple of months, not down?

What can I say to Opposition Members? They seem blind to the truth. The fact of the matter is that youth unemployment was going through the roof—there was an increase of 45%—and this Government have brought it down by nearly 200,000 since 2010. Working with businesses, we brought in an array of support, from work experience to sector-based work academies and wage incentives. We brought in a whole plethora of support. Some worked better than others—that is correct—but the aim and the outcome remains: youth unemployment is down by nearly 200,000 since Labour left office.

There is not much evidence of soft skills in that answer. The part of the UK where we have seen real progress on youth unemployment has been Wales. Youth unemployment used to be higher in Wales. Thanks to Jobs Growth Wales it is not higher any longer. Is it not now clear that for young people to benefit fully from the recovery that is under way, we need the young people’s job guarantee right across the UK?

I am afraid it is the right hon. Gentleman who has soft skills. I have core skills in telling the truth: youth unemployment is down 200,000 since he left office. We do not need a job guarantee scheme, which does not work and costs an incredible amount of money. The work experience scheme we brought in is delivering better results at a twentieth of the cost. You bring in Labour, you pay a lot more for a lot less results.