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Chancellor urged to address youth unemployment

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The chancellor’s March budget must include investment to tackle youth unemployment, leading employment and business representatives have stated.

Ahead of George Osborne’s spending statement, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) called for the Government to pledge £100 million on a scheme to encourage companies to hire out of work young people or apprentices.

It also wants the Government to announce tax breaks to encourage investment in young entrepreneurs.

The CIPD also urged Osborne to inject £50m into the National Careers Service (NCS), to improve connections between education institutions and employers.

BCC director general John Longworth told the BBC: “If the chancellor wants to avoid a lost generation among today's 16 to 24-year-olds, he must use the spring Budget to help business take on and train up young people.”

"The crisis of confidence separating Britain's employers and young people can't wait for political posturing or the electoral cycle. Getting young people into employment is vital, pressing and easily affordable right now."

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese warned that the Government and businesses needed to work together to avoid creating a generation of wasted talent “with high systemic youth unemployment and under-utilisation of skills”.

“We need to promote labour market inclusion and the development of productive, inclusive and engaging workplaces to create a stronger and more sustained demand for employment at all levels,” he said.

“Just focusing on the supply of skills is not enough. The need to pull these agendas together for the long-term benefit of the UK economy.”

The CIPD’s call for investment in NCS was backed by youth organisation YMCA England.

Chief executive and former HR director Denise Hatton said access to expert career guidance designed to match young people with suitable education, training and employment options was an “obvious solution” to the youth unemployment crisis.

“On leaving education, young people are facing extremely difficult employment prospects and they need to have the right support in place,” she said.

“Effective and appropriate careers guidance is vital for young people to navigate the range of options available to them, in order to enable them to make informed decisions about their future.

“YMCA England has made the case to parliament that a range of options delivered on balance and impartially need to be presented to young people, in order to remove the tendency for over promotion of A-levels as the only post-16 route with any value."

Government unemployment figures published last week showed unemployment among 16 to 24-year-olds had fallen by 125,000 to 2.34 million in the three months to December 2013.

The rate of youth unemployment now stands at 19.9%, compared to an overall rate of unemployment of 7.2%.

Osborne is scheduled to make his Budget announcements on Wednesday 19 March.