A £1 billion package has been announced to tackle youth unemployment, as the number of 16-24 year-olds out of work, education and training reaches a record high.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Employment Minister Chris Grayling announced today the money will be spread over next three years to provide unemployed young people with extra help as part of a new Youth Contract.
It comes just a day after the Department for Education (DfE) revealed the number of 16 to 24-year-olds, who are considered NEET in the third quarter of 2011, reached 1,163,000.
However, Mr Clegg and Mr Grayling say the Youth Contract will provide nearly half-a-million new opportunities for young people, including apprenticeships and work experience placements.
Key measures include cash payments to encourage employers to recruit young people and an extra 250,000 Work Experience places over the next three years, taking the total to at least 100,000 a year.
At least 20,000 extra incentive payments worth £1,500 each for employers to take on young people as apprentices will also be made, taking the total number of payments available to 40,000 next year.
Meanwhile, extra support will be given through Jobcentre Plus in the form of weekly, rather than fortnightly, signing-on meetings, more time to talk to an adviser and a National Careers Service interview.
The measures, the government say, differ from previous schemes – such as the Future Jobs Fund – over the last decade, as they are “focused on equipping young people with the skills and opportunities to gain long-term sustainable employment in the private sector”.
Mr Clegg said: “The aim of the Youth Contract is to get every unemployed young person earning or learning again before long term damage is done.
“This is a £1bn package and what’s different about it, is it gets young people into proper, lasting jobs in the private sector.
“But it’s a contract, a two-way street: if you sign up for the job, they’ll be no signing on for the dole. You have to stick with it.”
Mr Grayling said: “We are absolutely committed to making a difference to the life chances of young people. We are expanding what works and delivering that as a priority.
“It demonstrates how government and business can work together to put young people on the path to employment and a self reliant future.”
The government also announced a new £150 million programme to provide support to some of our most vulnerable 16-17 year olds NEETs from 2012.
The total amount of money available for the new initiatives will be almost £1 billion, in addition to existing funding for employment services.
Skills Minister John Hayes said: “By reviving apprenticeships, the government is enabling thousands of young people build successful careers, and helping put businesses on a footing to grow and create new, sustainable employment.
“We’ll continue to work with employers so that more training opportunities are created, and ambition and enterprise are recognised and rewarded.”
CBI Director-General John Cridland said: “This is good news for young people up and down the country. We’re pleased the government has developed our idea to incentivise businesses to take on the young unemployed.
“It will encourage firms to take a gamble on a young inexperienced person and help tackle the scourge of youth unemployment.”
However, it is not known at this time where the money for the package will come from. It is expected to be announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Oborne when he makes his Autumn Statement, next week.