Belfast Telegraph

Private sector key to solving youth jobs black spot

BY MARGARET CANNING

Private sector recovery is needed to tackle Northern Ireland's youth unemployment rate, the highest of all 12 UK regions, according to recent figures.

Young people of 17 and 18 who have been working in the Belfast Telegraph this week have expressed their concerns about employment for young people/

And organisations working directly with the young unemployed have said they fear the effects of the weight of unemployment on young shoulders.

Susan Russam, chief executive of social enterprise GEMS NI, which has worked to help young people gain skills, said the effects included "loss of confidence and motivation, increased anxiety and depression and home, family and relationship problems".

Business body the CBI said it had been calling on the Executive to do more to tackle youth unemployment by making it easier for employers to offer work experience, placements and apprenticeships. Northern Ireland director Nigel Smyth said: "Reducing levels of youth unemployment will require a strong private sector recovery. The Northern Ireland Executive must ensure that it creates the right conditions for firms to hire, and do more to ensure that we have an education system which focuses on helping young people to be rigorous, rounded and grounded, and be more informed of the career choices which exist." According to the regional breakdown of unemployment by age from the Office for National Statistics, the province's youth unemployment rate from November 2013 to January 2014 -- the most up-to-date quarterly figure — is 22.3%.

That means more than one in five 18- to 24-year-olds in the province do not have a job.

The next highest rate is felt in the north-east of England at 21.9%, while in third place is London, with youth unemployment of 21.4%.

Year-on-year, the rate has fallen by 1.5% in Northern Ireland.

Charity The Prince's Trust trains young people so that they are ready for the workplace.

Director Ian Jeffers said: "The bottom line is that we have a skills gap in Northern Ireland that could potentially derail this economic growth. This deficit must be addressed if we are to sustain and build on the economic growth that we are now seeing."

And Ms Russam added: "When things pick up, these young people will hopefully get work. However, for some young people the downturn is only one factor — these young people, often tagged with that awful term NEET (not in employment, education or training), need personal mentoring support and help to access the training and personal development to help them on a pathway to work."

Mark Dougan, head of public sector partnerships at the Prince's Trust, said: "What we know is that if you give young people a positive role model, provide them with on-the-job training that both challenges and supports them, you can quickly boost their confidence and motivation."

 

OUR VIEW...

HAMPERED BY LACK OF EXPERIENCE

MAYA McCLOSKEY

“It’s not even how good you are but what you’re up against. You need experience to get a job but you only get experience when you have a job. It’s so difficult.

“I would like to get into writing but I’m not sure what jobs there would be out there or how I should approach it, whether through a degree or an apprenticeship.

“I know a lot of people who do IT and software-type subjects. IT will also be part of the future because it’s constantly developing and growing — but not everybody is interested in it and some people like more creative subjects.”

 

TOO MUCH FOCUS ON IT SECTOR

CHRISTOPHER SEELEY

“I definitely do worry about getting a job in the future. For a long time I was into the idea of computer science and I was quite confident that there’s always loads of jobs there. But at the minute, I’m more into law and becoming a barrister because things have started to pick up a little in the economy. I don’t feel as pressured now.

“There seems to be a lot of emphasis on jobs in IT but if the government just concentrates on one area of jobs, down the line there’s not going to be a very varied workforce. I know that becoming a barrister is a very complicated process but law interests me at the moment.”

Belfast Telegraph

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