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Putting young people at the heart of the Coalition’s growth strategy

March 10, 2012 2:24 PM
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Jo Swinson speaking in ParliamentLiberal Democrat Spring Conference today backed Giving Young People a Future, the Party's policy paper on combating youth unemployment. The paper proposes extending the Youth Contract and help for young entrepreneurs and apprentices. It also calls for improved mentoring and career advice in schools.

Commenting, Jo Swinson MP, who proposed the policy motion said:

"Liberal Democrats are committed to putting young people at the heart of the Coalition Government's growth strategy.

"That's why last year Nick Clegg outlined a £1bn Youth Contract to get unemployed young people earning or learning before the long term damage is done.

"Today Liberal Democrats asserted our commitment to giving every young person a fair start in life, calling for the Youth Contract to be extended and for greater support for young entrepreneurs and apprentices.

"We also want to see more emphasis on career guidance and mentoring for students so school leavers can make well informed choices.

"Youth unemployment is a slow burn social disaster so it's right that despite money being tight the Coalition Government is prioritising getting young people back into work, education or training.

"We simply can't afford to lose the skills and talent of a generation."

Giving Young People a Future

Conference condemns the disproportionate impact the economic downturn has had on young people.

Conference is concerned that youth unemployment, which rose by nearly 75% under Labour between 2001 and 2010, is still increasing, and that young people face barriers to employment which have a significant impact on their life chances.

Conference is also concerned that youth unemployment disproportionately impacts on people from poorer and BAME communities, those with disabilities, young offenders and young people leaving care.

Conference further acknowledges that young people in rural areas face specific barriers to accessing learning and training and beginning employment including overcoming the lack of access to public services such as public transport, public libraries and youth services which are being cut by Councils in many rural areas.

Conference believes:

  1. I. A growing economy, which creates new jobs, is vital for tackling youth unemployment.
  2. II. Young people need to have the skills and opportunities to find meaningful employment.
  3. III. All career options, including higher education, apprenticeships and on-the-job training should be treated as equally valid.
  4. IV. The education system should prepare young people for a full and active part in adult society and enable them to make informed choices about their future.

Conference welcomes the Coalition Government's intervention to combat youth unemployment and its commitment to place young people at the heart of its growth strategy through:

  1. Providing opportunities for nearly half a million young people with the £1bn Youth Contract.
  2. Creating jobs through a £30bn investment in infrastructure and supporting young entrepreneurs with a £10m Innovation Fund and the New Enterprise Allowance.
  3. Supporting vocational education, including creating 163,000 extra apprenticeships.
  4. Ensuring face-to-face careers advice for young people with Special Educational Needs or from low income backgrounds.

Conference endorses policy paper 103, Giving Young People a Future: Policies on Combating Youth Unemployment, and its key priorities to:

  1. Extend the Youth Contract.
  2. Support young entrepreneurs.
  3. Give young people the opportunity to develop their skills once they have left school.
  4. Ensure schools provide high quality careers guidance and mentoring.
  5. Act to prevent schools failing young people who end up not in employment, education or training (NEET).

Conference calls for further action to deliver these priorities, including to:

1) Extend the Youth Contract into the next spending review period so that the protection it offers remains in place, and permanently retain the guarantee for 18 year-olds to ensure all young people leaving school at 18 enter training, education or work within one year.

2) Support young entrepreneurs through prioritising start-up loans and mentoring for young people under the New Enterprise Allowance, and ensuring the major banks compensate for their failure to lend to young entrepreneurs by funding the development of the community banking sector, which is often better able to support local enterprise.

3) Give young people more opportunities to develop their skills by:

a) Providing loans towards living costs and additional childcare support for 18-24 year-olds on the first year of an apprenticeship programme, funded by both businesses and government.

b) Increasing the number of 'higher level' apprenticeships, which provide the best chances of future employment and ensuring wide availability of 'foundation level' apprenticeships.

c) Undertaking a review of the effectiveness of Jobcentre Plus in meeting the needs of young people.

d) Ensuring that when a young person first claims Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), their Jobcentre Plus adviser assesses their 'life' and 'employability' skills, such as presentation, communication and customer service, and provides help on improving these skills to those that need it most.

e) Enabling jobseekers to volunteer for more than 16 hours per week without losing financial support and encouraging employers to ensure volunteering or work experience schemes are properly mentored and include training opportunities.

f) Allowing 'rapid reclaim' of benefits for young people moving off JSA for 12 months to reduce the uncertainty in making the first step into employment.

4) Improve careers guidance and mentoring for young people at school, enabling them to make informed choices by:

a) Providing age-appropriate careers advice from age 10-11 and face-to-face careers advice for all from age 13-14, as recommended in the Hughes Report.

b) Enabling students to undertake good quality work experience and entrepreneurial projects.

c) Encouraging companies to work with pupils whilst still at school to support them through their studies and develop 'school leaver' programmes similar to graduate training schemes.

d) Supporting schools to form partnerships with former pupils, local businesses and further education providers to provide mentoring for pupils.

5) Allow local authorities to class a school as 'underperforming' when too high a proportion of its leavers become NEET and to intervene appropriately.