The ACEVO Commission on Youth Unemployment has criticised the government’s apprenticeship programme and current schemes designed to tackle youth unemployment.

A new report, chaired by David Miliband MP and titled ‘Youth unemployment: The crisis we cannot afford’, says the government could be doing more to help young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET).

The commission says the Youth Contract and Work Programme in particular will support only a small proportion of the people who need help.

David Miliband MP said: “Britain faces a youth unemployment emergency.

“This is a crisis we cannot afford.

“Government have set the right goal – abolishing long-term youth unemployment – but we will need big change if we are to achieve it.”

The commission says apprenticeship opportunities are “limited in supply” for young people, and attribute the record growth in framework starts to existing employees aged 25 and above.

The report states: “Many companies now put existing, older employees into ‘apprenticeships’ as a way of giving them training whilst on the job.

“We believe there is significant untapped potential for employers (particularly SMEs) to offer more young people apprenticeships as a high-quality route for their transition from education to a career.”

The report references the Wolf Report and says many vocational courses are “of limited value” to young people aged 16 and above, often encouraging them to enroll in consecutive short courses which offer little value.

The report states: “Whilst some apprenticeships are of very high quality, there is significant variation; employers also told us of their fears that the apprenticeship ‘brand’ could be damaged by indiscriminate expansion, and particularly by the use of apprenticeships to give older existing staff additional qualifications.”

The Commission also criticises the poor amount of awareness surrounding the apprenticeship pathway, claiming too few teachers understand the route or promote it to young people or their parents.

Recommendations in the report include bringing forward the third year of spending for the Youth Contract in order to try and double the number of subsidised jobs in 2012.

Other proposals include a UCAS styled system for apprenticeships, as well as implementing further safeguards to ensure quality is upheld in the apprenticeship programme.

Mr Miliband added: “Young people, government, communities and employers will all need to up their game if young people are to succeed in a radically changing jobs market.

“Our report sets out a practical routemap for how they can do precisely that.

“The crisis of youth unemployment can and must be tackled now.

“With action we can make a real difference across Britain.”

The report also proposes an entirely new programme for young people, called ‘Job Ready’, which would help young NEETs back into education or work.

The programme would be delivered by voluntary or private sector organisations in each local community and offer a ‘deal’, such as a financial allowance, subsidised transport or additional housing, to young people to ensure they stay engaged.

Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive officer of ACEVO, said: “Youth unemployment has been a burning issue for voluntary sector leaders for years now.

“The current numbers only serve to reinforce that concern.

“Charity CEOs are ready and willing to be a key part of the solution, but we need Government and the private sector to work with us.

“The current crisis will only be solved if we see this as a priority for us all.”

More than one in five young people are now NEET, with a further quarter of a million now unemployed for more than a year.

The commission estimates youth unemployment will cost the exchequer £4.8 billion in 2012 – a figure higher than the 16-19 budget for further education in England.

The report states: “The human misery of youth unemployment is also a time-bomb under the nation’s finances.”

(Download the full report here.)

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