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Economic recovery won't solve youth unemployment, report claims

The UK has a major “structural youth unemployment” problem that will only be solved by a clear vocational route through education into employment, according to a new report.

In a 52-page report Remember the Young Ones, the think tank, Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), says even a “full-blown” economic recovery will not help the problem.

It argues youth unemployment is lower in countries where the vocational route through education into work is as clear as the academic route.

Greater employer involvement also results in lower youth unemployment, it adds.

According to figures released by the ONS on Wednesday, youth unemployment fell by more than 200,000 since last year to 16.9 percent, making it the largest drop since records began. However, there are still 767,000 unemployed young people aged 16-24.

The IPPR report states there is a "mismatch" between available jobs and the courses young people are studying. For example, 94,000 people were trained in beauty and hair for just 18,000 jobs, while only 123,000 were trained in the construction and engineering sectors for an advertised 275,000 jobs.

It says careers education and guidance plays a crucial role in ensuring a smooth transition from education to work in European countries that have low rates of youth unemployment, but argues that it has been badly neglected in England.

It recommends careers guidance be delivered by special advisers, not teachers, and that every secondary should have a full-time careers officer.

It also recommends a series of reforms to apprenticeships, including no-one over the age of 23 being allowed to start an apprenticeship, and all apprenticeships should be at level 3 and above and last for a minimum of one year.

Tony Dolphin, IPPR chief economist, said: “Although there has been a sharp fall in the number of unemployed young people over the last year, it is unlikely that even a full-blown economic recovery will fully solve the UK’s structural youth unemployment problem.

“We can learn lots from countries like Germany and the Netherlands. The experience of young people across Europe shows a strong workplace-based vocational education and training system, with high employer involvement, contributes more to a smoother transition from education to work and a low rate of youth unemployment than anything else. The UK system is some way from the best in Europe.”

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “While we are on the road to economic recovery, policy makers have a responsibility to ensure that this has a stable footing. 

“Tackling youth unemployment, and making sure there are training opportunities available are critically important and further education colleges provide the means by which we can address these challenges. However, to do so effectively there needs to be sufficient funding available. 

“Although we agree more could be done to improve efficiency within the education system, we want to see a full and frank public discussion about the extent of various funding pressures, which we believe will accelerate post-2015.”

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