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Young People in Work

Volume 621: debated on Monday 20 February 2017

The number of young people in work has increased by 235,000 since 2010, and is up 38,000 in the past three months. Nearly nine in 10 young people are in education or work, and youth unemployment is the lowest it has been since 2005.

I am very grateful to the Secretary of State for his answer. I warmly welcome the fact that the youth employment jobs figures are at near record levels. Will he join me in welcoming the work of the Dorset Young Chamber, which helps to match individual businesses in and around my constituency with particular schools and to bridge the gap between education and employment?

I am happy to join my hon. Friend in welcoming the work of the Dorset Young Chamber. I have seen the great work that my local chamber of commerce, Kent Invicta, does in schools. My hon. Friend chairs the all-party parliamentary group for youth employment, so he will be pleased to know that the youth claimant count in his constituency has gone down by 74% since 2010 and by 7% in the past year alone.

More young people are claiming benefits in Newcastle Central this year than they were last year, and the north-east has the overall highest unemployment rate in the country. Too many of our young people have to leave the region to find good jobs, so when will the Secretary of State make the northern powerhouse a reality for the north-east?

We are determined to make the northern powerhouse a reality. As the hon. Lady says, youth unemployment is higher in certain areas than it is in others, but I hope she recognises that youth unemployment as a whole has come down markedly in recent years in her region, as in all others. Some 86% of 16 to 24-year-olds are now in full-time study or work, which is a record high, and the employment rate for 16 to 24-year-olds who have left full-time education is up by 0.4 percentage points in the past year.

Apprenticeships are solid routes for young people to secure work. What work is the Secretary of State doing with his counterparts in the Department for Education to ensure that all our young people have access to apprenticeships?

We work closely with colleagues in the Department for Education to ensure that the Government meet their commitment to having 3 million new apprentices during this Parliament. We are on target for that. In particular, we wish to ensure that apprenticeships are available not only to young people leaving school for the first time, but throughout the age range so that we can make a reality of the phrase “lifelong learning.”

What would the Secretary of State say to areas such as mine, where youth unemployment has actually risen in the past month? Will he please look at working with colleagues in the northern powerhouse to ensure that the benefits of Government investment are shared across the north-west and north Wales as a whole?

I am happy to listen to the right hon. Gentleman’s latter point. One purpose of the northern powerhouse and, indeed—more widely—of the Government’s consultation on the industrial strategy is to ensure that the success of the economy is spread to all regions of the country. I am more than happy to talk to the right hon. Gentleman about any specific points he wants to make on his region.