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Youth charity appeals over job qualifications

By Lisa Smyth

More needs to be done to ensure school leavers have adequate qualifications to find employment, a leading youth charity said today.

Government figures have shown more than 90% of 16 and 17-year-olds were in full-time education or vocational training between 2006 and 2007,

According to the statistics released by the Department of Education and Department for Employment and Learning, the participation of 16 and 17-year-olds in Northern Ireland - boys and girls - in full-time education or vocational courses is actually higher than their counterparts in England.

The figures show that participation was better among the younger students, with an overall participation rate for 16 year-olds - 94.9% - compared to 89.1% for 17-year-olds.

However, while welcoming the figures, Siobhan Craig, director of the Prince's Trust, said that they should not mask the problems that still exist within this demographic.

And she called on the Government and the business community to take steps to work more closely with charities such as they Prince's Trust to give young people the opportunities and support they need and deserve.

"This year across the UK around 30,000 young people are expected to leave school with no qualifications and little chance of finding a job," she said.

"For these young people life after school can be challenging. In Reaching the Hardest to Reach, the Prince's Trust revealed that almost half of unemployed young people say a lack of qualifications prevents the from achieving their goals.

"This is not just an issue for the young people themselves but for the economic health of Northern Ireland as a whole. The Cost of Exclusion report warns that youth unemployment is costing Northern Ireland's economy more than £1.6m a week in lost productivity and this is without taking into account those who are classified as inactive for other reasons.

"Together with the half-a-million-a-week the government pays out in Jobseeker's Allowance, economic activity among young people is costing Northern Ireland millions of pounds each year.

"Far above any financial cost is the human cost of this situation. We owe it to the young people of Northern Ireland to find real solutions that will give them education and employment which will in turn lead to the self confidence and self esteem needed to play a full part in society."

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