Belfast Telegraph

Jobs for Northern Ireland's young people are crucial

By Mark Dougan

Shockingly, 18 to 24-year-olds in Northern Ireland are 40% more likely to be unemployed than in any other region in the United Kingdom.

It is therefore of paramount importance that tackling youth unemployment is at the pinnacle of our political parties’ agendas.

This is why The Prince’s Trust is urgently calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to take bold, decisive action to eradicate long-term youth unemployment by 2020.

This year marks 10 years since the publication of the Ten Year Strategy for Children and Young People in 2006, which set out a series of aims to help children and young people in Northern Ireland achieve their potential.

However, it is a shame that the opportunities for our young have diminished rather than flourished.

Youth unemployment has more than doubled to 21,000, long-term unemployment has nearly tripled, and the number of young people in employment has fallen by 16% to 89,000.

When you add up the long-term scarring effects of youth unemployment, such as lower earnings and increased risk of offending, we cannot afford to approach the crisis in the same way.

And the good news for Executive ministers is that no “new” money is required.

It is simply a case of departments spending what they have more wisely. So, what are the solutions?

We need investment in strategic, long-term, cost-effective solutions which are targeting support at the hardest-to-reach young people. The Executive must also stimulate demand for young people’s labour by supporting employers to create more meaningful employment and on-the-job training opportunities.

The May Assembly elections will bring a host of new MLAs and  the reduction and realignment of departments.

We have a valuable opportunity to introduce fresh and innovative ideas and make a step-change in how we all work together to ensure we make the eradication of long-term youth unemployment by 2020 an achievable goal.

Mark Dougan is acting Prince’s Trust Northern Ireland director

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