Youth unemployment 1: Commons committee puts Government policy under the microscope

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The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee has released an independent report on Youth unemployment and the Youth Contract today.

Minister for employment Mark Hoban is set to meet 30 major employers to thrash out what can be done to tackle the issue of “getting young people back to work” and to help employers understand how best to use employment initiatives the Government has been trying to implement over the past year.

One of the people attending the meeting, Norman Pickavance (pictured), former HR director at Morrisons and chairman of charity and social enterprise group, Create, told HR magazine the employers have all the tools, but are confused as how to use them: "We have all the pieces of the jigsaw, without the image on the box."

The employers include: British Airways, J Sainsbury's, John Lewis, Land Rover, HMV, Channel 4 and Aviva. They have outlined five key areas they want the minister to address:

Clarity – There have been a lot of new initiatives, but how do they all join up?

Co-ordination – There are 47 different funding routes to support young people.

Simplify – The process is too confusing. Young people need a clear route planner for getting a job. They need to know where to go and how the steps fit together.

Target – We need to do more for the hardest to reach, the ones furthest from the job market.

Priority – All employers need to make youth employment top of their agenda.

These proposals have been developed with cross-industry bodies, including the Confederation of British Industry, British Chamber of Commerce and City and Guilds.

The meeting will be chaired by Mark Hoban and will also be attended by representatives from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

The report focuses on a wide range of employment issues designed to get young people back in employment. One of those is the Job Centre Plus (JCP) work experience scheme. The committee thinks that the Youth Contract target of 250,000 extra placements is over-ambitious and there should be a greater focus on quality not quantity.

It recommends that the Government continues to work with employers and human resources experts to ensure that work experience provided under the Youth Contract offers genuine opportunities for young people to increase their employability.

Pickavance told HR 16-24-year-olds have the same feeling some employers do about such schemes: "There is a lack of understanding, which has created mistrust and scepticism among young people.

"It's a case of too many cooks. They have a whole host of agencies and different organisations out there offering advice and support that has just become too confusing.

"There is a complete lack of ethos," he added.

The report supports sector-based Work Academies, which combine a period of unpaid work experience with relevant training and the guarantee of a job interview. This is why the committee has recommended the JCP prioritises this approach.

In related news, e-learning company Marshall ACM has launched an interactive ‘employability’ course for students aged 16 to 18, to help ease the transition from education to the workplace. It is designed to increase student awareness of the range of employment opportunities open to them, such as vocational and academic options, and to help prepare them for ‘that all-important first job’ after leaving college.

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