Opposition day debate: Youth opportunities – by John Hayes MP

In Britain today there is a growing army of young people:

Out of education, Untrained, left behind and with little prospect of a fulfilling job.

 An army of 1 million young people not in employment, education or training.

 A generation of broken lives and shattered dreams.

 But this is not just a personal tragedy, it’s a tragedy for our nation, and a growing burden on the state. The Prince’s Trust estimates the cost of this growing army at over £3 billion a year.

And we know that if a young person’s first experience of the labour market is of unemployment and failure then it can leave scars – Deep scars of disadvantage. Scars that can limit prospects over a whole lifetime.

But this is not a problem simply caused by the recession, Youth Unemployment rose over the last decade, even when unemployment overall was falling. And the number of NEETS has remained stubbornly and unacceptably high throughout the lifetime of this Government.

Instead of helping more young people enter skilled employment, most new jobs have gone to workers born overseas.

According to the OECD more that 7 in 10 jobs created since 1997 have been filled by foreign born workers.[1]

The last decade was one of complacency of spin, of debt.

We can’t go on like this.

 I believe that Government can make a difference. It can change peoples’ lives for the better and lay the foundations for a stronger, broader based economy.

By providing real opportunity to young people.  

The Opportunity to Train

Back in 2007 a report on apprenticeships by the Lords Economic Affairs Committee concluded “that many who could and should benefit from apprenticeship have not done so”, mainly because of a severe shortage of places.

 In the fourth quarter of last year we saw a fall in the number of apprenticeship starts, but the situation is much worse than these figure suggest.

The fact is that all of the increase in the number of apprenticeships over the last decade has been the result of converting other forms of training into apprenticeships.

Don’t take my word for it, it’s what the House of Lords report said in 2007.

Minster’s like to count the number of apprentices by starts.

Even by their preferred measure the number of advanced apprentices – the level of all apprenticeship training in other countries – has declined.

At the beginning of the decade (1999-2000) there were 84 and half thousand advanced apprenticeship starts.

By the end of the decade (2008-9) this had fallen to less than 80 thousand.[2]

They failed because they failed to engage employers – It’s time to change.

A Conservative Government will make it much easier for companies to run apprenticeships. We will tighten the frameworks so that they are relevant to each sector of the economy. Cut paperwork and pay employers directly for the training they provide in the workplace.

We will provide a major boost by injecting almost £800 million of support from the Train to Gain budget to help those most in need, because the costs to small and medium sized businesses are greater we will offer them more support, through an apprenticeship bonus of £2,000 for each apprenticeship at a SME. 

Pre-apprenticeships

The House of Lords inquiry on apprenticeships concluded that one of the biggest barriers to young people participating in apprenticeship training was the lack of basic skills.

It concluded that ‘many school leavers in the UK have not acquired the minimum level of functional numeracy and literacy and social skills necessary to benefit from apprenticeship training.[3]

Ofsted told the inquiry that at a conservative estimate 300,000 16-19 year olds were unable to access apprenticeships due to a lack of basic skills.

So we need to build a path that helps more young people into apprenticeships and skilled employment.

For those young people not yet ready to start a full work-based apprenticeship we have that we will introduce pre-apprenticeship training.

Key skills, such as numeracy and literacy, will imbedded into learning a trade, demonstrating to young people the importance of these skills to their working lives.

For the hard core of NEETS who at first need to take small steps back into learning and on to employment we will establish 50,000 new FE college places every year.

Every college will become an autonomous institution, extending opportunity to all by taking their rightful place at the heart of community life. From new college courses through pre-apprenticeship training, real work based apprenticeships, to higher apprenticeships and foundation degrees.

We will build a new ladder of opportunity – A ladder that is sturdy and robust because it is based on real practical competences, respected by learners and valued by employers.

Student Loans Crisis

At a time when young people have been hard hit by the recession.

It is even more regrettable that, as the review into the Student Loan Company concluded ‘new students… have experienced real and significant problems in applying for financial support’

I wrote to the Minister before Christmas to raise a number of urgent questions related to the crisis.

I have yet to receive a response. 

Perhaps the Minister will take the opportunity in his summing up to answer these questions.

Can he confirm, as the Minister indicated would be the case in the House on December 10th, that the backlog in current cases was cleared by the weekend of the 12th of that month?

If it was not can he tell us why?

Does the Minister accept the conclusion of the independent review that many students missed the published deadlines for applications because ‘they were not clearly stated or well publicized, and not well understood by applicants’?

 Will institutions that have used Access to Learning fund to cover the gap between students applying and receiving their loans receive support from either HEFCE or the Department?

When does the Minister expect the Student Loan Company to start the new cycle and to offer assessments of future claims?

As  the Minister will be aware, over 100,000 students enrol on courses in January and February, over  10% of total admissions.

Many of these students are studying vocational courses at new Universities.

It would be a tragedy if these students experienced hardships similar hardships to those who started their studies last autumn.

Can the Minister categorically guarantee that there will be no crisis this year?

Conclusion

The Minister know that this Government has failed

Failed to reduce NEETS

Failed to expand real apprenticeships.

Failed to help more disadvantaged people go to University.

A decade of failure.

Millions of shattered dreams, broken lives.

Labour members know this.

They are embarrassed by it.

If Labour MP’s had populated the Bounty there wouldn’t have been a mutiny, Captain Bly would have got away with a punitive regime.

Just as the Treasury bench get away with it.

It’s time for those that have failed to step aside and let those with perseverance and passion step forward.

To let Britain grow – Bring new hope – New Jobs – New Opportunity.

They’re out of ideas – Out of good people – Out of tune – Out of Step – Out of time…And very soon they will be out of office.


[1] OECD Migration Outlook 2009

[2] Office of National Statistics

[3] Ibid

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