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Jobless plump for work rather than full-time training;FE Focus

Neil Merrick assesses how colleges are adapting to meet the challenges of Labour's Welfare to Work legislation

Nearly three-quarters of young people taking up New Deal places are choosing employment ahead of full-time training or other options, writes Neil Merrick.

Employment Service figures covering the first two months after the New Deal was launched in 12 pathfinder areas show 2,435 people opted for a job which includes a guarantee of training one day per week.

Trainees earn a regular wage while employers receive a subsidy of pound;60 per week for six months and pound;750 towards the cost of training.

A total of 732 young people chose full-time education or training and can continue to claim benefits. Most are expected to enrol onto courses which have been running since September although colleges say actual recruitment of new students has been slow.

"The number of new clients is fairly small," said Mike McCabe, assistant principal at Dudley College of Technology which had received 22 referrals from the Employment Service by early March.

Voluntary-sector organisations recruited 156 young people in pathfinder areas while 90 opted to join an environmental task force. Both options include a weekly allowance or wage and guaranteed training.

Some colleges such as Dudley have joined consortia made up of local colleges while others have linked up with employers. Mr McCabe said the New Deal was an opportunity to work more closely with other colleges after years of competition following incorporation.

The Employment Service, which negotiated contracts with nine colleges in pathfinder areas, has yet to announce how many colleges will be directly involved in the New Deal once the scheme goes nationwide on April 6.

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