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SMEs 'blocking' apprenticeships as NEET problem escalates

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SMEs are providing a barrier to apprenticeships for young people at a time when the number of NEETs is escalating, according to London’s deputy mayor for business and enterprise, Kit Malthouse.

SMEs, which make up 90% of London's businesses and employ more than 50% workforce, are “naturally suspicious” of government attempts to get them recruiting apprentices, Malthouse said, at a Berkeley Foundation and Mayor’s Fund for London Leadership briefing on youth employment.

He added: “We have lots and lots of young people who are very willing and interested to get into apprenticeships but in terms of opportunities, those numbers are dropping on a weekly basis." 

The number of unemployed young people has risen by 5% in the past year, with more than 1 million people aged 16 to 24 not in education employment or training.

Malthouse said that for most young people who go astray, there’s a one-to-one correlation with their engagement with the education system.

"Most of them would fall out of school or have problems with the education system at some point. As soon as they got out of school or training, they had to get a job," he said. "The quicker they got into a job the quicker they were socialised and habituated in a working environment, the less likely there were to be problems in the future.”

Baroness Debbie Stedman-Scott, chief executive of Tomorrow's People, a national employment charity, said: “I think one of the things we have learnt at Centre for Social Justice is that we’ve got to help young people make a better transition from school to work and identify those who are really at risk of becoming NEET. We've got to be to them, what so far, their families and society have not been."

“Young people want jobs but they want good jobs, they want to feel valued and they want to feel they can turn up at work and they can add value to an employers business.”

Berkeley Group, a property development company, has joined the Mayor’s Fund for London to launch a £1.5 million youth employment initiative. The initiative will target NEETs and support 3,200 young Londoners into the creative industry over three years.