Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Youth jobs crisis will continue even with full recovery

Director of The Prince's Trust in Northern Ireland, Ian Jeffers
Director of The Prince's Trust in Northern Ireland, Ian Jeffers

A full-blown economic recovery will not solve the UK's structural youth unemployment problem, according to a new report. Think tank IPPR said that despite steady falls in the jobless total, even among younger people, there are still 868,000 out-of-work 16 to 24-year-olds.

Around 700,000 workless young people have never had a job, said the report, which was published ahead of the latest unemployment figures.

The think tank called for every secondary school to appoint a full-time careers officer to liaise with local employers.

The study showed a 'mismatch' between available jobs and courses for young people, with 94,000 trained in beauty and hair last year for just 18,000 jobs.

In contrast, 123,000 were trained in the construction and engineering sectors for an advertised 275,000 jobs, it was found.

Tony Dolphin, IPPR chief economist, said: "While the last six or seven years have been particularly tough for the latest generation of young people, even before the financial crisis many of those entering the labour market for the first time were struggling to compete with older workers for jobs.

"Although there has been a sharp fall in the number of unemployed young people over the last year, it is unlikely that even a full-blown economic recovery will fully solve the UK's structural youth unemployment problem.

"We can learn lots from countries like Germany and the Netherlands. The experience of young people across Europe shows a strong workplace-based vocational education and training system, with high employer involvement, contributes more to a smoother transition from education to work and a low rate of youth unemployment than anything else. The UK system is some way from the best in Europe."

The new figures are expected to show another fall in unemployment and in the numbers claiming Jobseeker's Allowance.

Northern Ireland's young people have been badly affected by the economic downturn. Despite the gradual recovery, youth unemployment remains above 20%.

According to recent analysis by Ulster Bank economist Richard Ramsey, the 18-24 age group has seen a fall in employment of some 8,000 people over the last year.

However, there had been an increase in employment of 20,000 overall, with 15,000 of the increase involving jobs for people aged over 50.

The Prince's Trust, the youth charity which helps young people get into employment, has said firms should recruit young people now in order to stave off a skills crisis inthe future.

In a recent survey by the charity, 89% of businesses said they believed a skills crisis would hit over the next three years – and many feared a lack of skills could hamper the economic recovery.

Ian Jeffers, director of The Prince's Trust in Northern Ireland, said: "It is deeply concerning that employers in Northern Ireland are struggling to fill vacancies when we have thousands of unemployed young people who are desperate for work.

"The current economic recovery is encouraging, but in order to sustain this growth, UK plc needs to invest in the next generation to avoid a skills vacuum in future."

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