Labour’s lost generation: one in six young people do nothing

Author: By Richard Garner, Education Editor

The number of so-called ?Neets? (not in education, employment or training) has
risen by more than 100,000 in comparison with the same time last year, to
835,000. The number of 16 to 18-year-olds in the same boat has also risen,
by 24,000 to 233,000, to nearly 12 per cent of the age group as a whole.

Overall, one in six 16 to 24-year-olds (959,000) are now officially described
as Neets, with the figure set to top the million mark in three months? time
as school leavers fail to gain university places. A record 60,000 are
expected to be disappointed this year.

Opposition MPs immediately launched an attack on the Government?s record with
David Laws, the Liberal Democrats? schools spokesman, saying ministers had
?failed spectacularly? to cut the number of unemployed youngsters and
warning it ?risks creating a lost generation?.

?This surge in the number of young people not in education, work or training
clearly shows they are bearing the brunt of the recession,? he added.

A regional breakdown of the figures showed the problem was worst in the North
East, with 9.8 per cent of 16 to 18-year-olds at risk of being on the
streets.

David Willetts, the Conservative shadow universities secretary, described the
trend as ?deeply worrying?.

?Ministers have comprehensively failed to get a grip on this crisis,? he
added. ?Young people don?t need more empty promises or celebrity gimmicks.
They need more apprenticeship opportunities, more postgraduate places and
better careers advice.?

Iain Wright, the schools minister, said: ?We recognise the economic downturn
is having a significant impact on young people and we are determined to
ensure that as many as possible stay in education, employment and training.?
However, he added it had been ?challenging? to reduce the Neets figures for
18-year-olds.

Both he and the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, who is in charge of the country
this week, emphasised the Government?s ?September guarantee?, which ensures
a place in education or training for every 16 and 17-year-old who wants to
stay on at school or college.

Ministers are also introducing a second pledge in the New Year that anyone out
of work for more than a year will be offered either a job, training or
further education.

Mr Darling, who was visiting a job centre in Marylebone, central London,
added: ?It is important that we do everything we can, which is why we are
spending over £5bn to get people back into work as quickly as possible.? He
said it was important that ?we don?t repeat the mistakes that were made 20
years ago when a whole generation was lost?.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber added: ?We cannot afford to lose another
generation of young people to unemployment and underachievement.

?Tackling this crisis won?t come cheap. We need more employers to take on
apprentices and the Government must ensure its guarantee … continues to be
well funded, as demand will be high.

?Neets are likely to have low skills and poor experience so the training and
work on offer must be meaningful. Otherwise it will just be a stop-gap
before further unemployment.?

Susan Anderson, the CBI?s director of education and skills policy, said: ?The
number of 18 to 24-year-olds not in employment, education or training will
continue to rise. We know from the 1980s? recession that unemployment scars
the lives of young people ? so they need our support. This can include
apprenticeships, internships or volunteering opportunities.?

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