The great majority of young people in the UK are either employed or in full-time education, but there are still too many who do not have the opportunity to fulfil their potential or meet their aspirations. At present almost 670,000 16–24-year-olds are unemployed and not in full-time study. This headline figure represents 9% of the cohort, compared to 12% after the 1990s recession. While employment prospects will improve for many as the economy recovers from recession, there is evidence of a long-term structural problem for certain groups of unemployed young people. Even before the recession unemployment remained a particular problem for the low skilled. This reflects a fundamental change in the economy and its labour force needs; Britain’s future chance to compete is as a high tech, high skilled nation.
This is why the Government is committed to a new approach that will extend opportunity by ensuring that everyone has access to the training and experience they need to succeed. Last week the Government announced a £60m commitment to get more vulnerable young people into work, a boost to Apprenticeships and radical reforms to transform vocational education. These are part of a series of measures which I and my colleagues in BIS, DfE and the DWP are bringing forward to prioritise youth employment, and tackle some of the long term structural barriers that stop some young people from getting a job and starting their career.
In total the Government will provide funding for up to 250,000 more Apprenticeships over the next four years – more than our country has ever seen before – and funding for 100,000 work placements over the next two years. Over 100 large companies and tens of thousands of small companies around the country have responded to the Government’s call and pledged to offer work experience places.
Apprenticeships are key to our reforms. The expanded and more rigorous system we are building represents a new path to high level skills for young people. I am passionately committed to doing all I can to help more people find an apprenticeship place; this is why we have announced significant changes to encourage take-up. We are cutting through red-tape so that more employers are involved, piloting an outcome-based payments system for large employers with direct contracts to provide both on- and off-the-job training. This will be piloted by BT, TUI and McDonalds.
In addition I have announced a new Access to Apprenticeships pathway within the Apprenticeships programme that will benefit up to 10,000 vulnerable young people, helping those who are committed to pursuing an Apprenticeship but who cannot immediately find an employer to take them on because they lack the skills or experience.
And we are taking forward recommendations in the Wolf review of vocational learning to ensure all young people, including apprentices, study Maths and English to age 19 until they get a good qualification in those subjects.
We are committed to improving the Apprenticeship programme because we know it helps young people gain the skills that drive growth. The measures we have announced will help unemployed young people gain new skills, secure Apprenticeships and make a better future for themselves and Britain; building a new path to purposeful pride for a whole generation. This success will build the prosperous, cohesive and just Britain that the cause of virtue demands.