Think-tank calls for youth guarantees and levies

Youth guarantees and youth levies figure among new proposals from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) aimed at ensuring more than a million young people do not fall into the Neet (not in education, employment or training) trap.

The think-tank, in the last of its three reports this month, recommends a ‘youth allowance’ to replace existing out of work benefits for 18 to 24-year-olds. It would provide financial support for young people who need it, conditional on participation in purposeful training or intensive job search.

No More Neets also calls for a ‘youth guarantee’ to be established, offering access to FE or vocational training plus intensive support to find work. For those not learning or earning after six months, mandatory paid work experience and traineeships should be provided.

Large firms should also either offer apprenticeships to young people, in proportion to their size, or pay a ‘youth levy’ towards the costs of training young people.

Meanwhile, London and eight ‘core cities’ should take on resources and responsibility for young people, with Westminster setting national objectives.

Graeme Cooke (pictured above), IPPR research director, said: “In contrast to previous initiatives and attempts at reform in this area – Connexions, the New Deals, the Work Programme and the Youth Contract – this strategy aims to solve the fundamental failures of the school-to-work transition system, rather than making up for them.”

The second of the IPPR’s reports, The Condition of Britain: Growing up and becoming an adult, argued that up to 50,000 16 to 18-year-olds were studying low-level courses that offered little or no job preparation or incentive toward further study. Almost 250,000 teenagers who left school without good qualifications were studying these courses but IPPR said that up to a fifth would be better off on an apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship training.

Kayte Lawton, senior research fellow at the IPPR, said: “Young people who don’t do well enough at school often end up taking colleges courses that don’t prepare them for work or further study. Many of these courses don’t include decent work experience and often fail to lead to a recognised qualification.”

She added: “We need to see big changes to the way that post-16 education works and we need employers to step up and offer more work experience to young people to help them learn the skills they need to get on in the workplace. We can’t expect schools to do this by themselves.”

But the claims were attacked by Association of Colleges president Michelle Sutton.

She said: “In two years, colleges turn the majority of these students around, helping them find employment or continue to further study. Therefore it’s not true to describe such courses as dead-end because they are often important stepping stones.”

Lynne Sedgmore, executive director of the 157 Group, said: “The finding that those who take level two courses are more likely to become Neet than those on A-levels is unsurprising, and to imply the reason is mainly to do with the design of level two programmes is simplistic and potentially misleading.”