Councils getting set to meet training goals
All 79 TECs are keen to work with the Government to develop Welfare to Work and produce ideas for its delivery.
Jeremy Long, chief executive of Focus Central London, the biggest and newest TEC, said there were two issues - helping the Government to understand some of the practicalities involved, and then gearing up for delivery.
All TECs work with the voluntary sector and local employers, on outreach programmes and schemes that match up to Welfare to Work. "We have been a stepping stone for some. We will say to Government 'is this the sort of thing you were thinking of?' and if so we can take it forward."
The programme was a golden opportunity to solve a backlog of issues in the capital quickly and effectively, he said.
Chris Humphries, chief executive of the TEC National Council, which met officials last week to discuss Welfare to Work, said the programme had to be fully integrated with other Labour Government policy. He pointed out that TECs had already sacrificed Pounds 150 million of cash to launch the Government's Individual Learning Accounts.
Alongside Welfare to Work, there were education action zones for the disaffected, Target 2000 for 16 to 18-year-olds, and employment action zones for older people. "If you are an employer and you are offered a 17-year-old, and at the same time an 18-year-old who comes with Pounds 60 a week, which would you take? This programme has a potentially significant downward impact on 16 to 18-year-olds and an upward effect on 25-year-olds.
"The outcome has to be sustainable employment and high-level qualifications, not just an unemployment register effect. So you are going to have to deal with customised programmes for individuals. The key is for partnerships between the TECs, colleges, local organisations, and careers services, all bringing forward local strategies."
Preparations are well advanced in Leeds where a Youth Unemployment Working Group was established by the TEC, city council and careers guidance organisation, following a visit by Stephen Byers, now schools minister. Their report has been sent to employers for consultation.
In Leeds, of the 6,400 under-25s currently claiming benefit, more than 2,600 have been unemployed for more than six months, more than 1,400 have not worked for more than a year and 500 have had no job for more than two years.
Alistair Graham, chief executive of Leeds TEC, said analysis had shown that, with funds, they could expand existing provision and meet the demand. "There is plenty of spare capacity whether it is with private training providers or FE colleges. As you get into it there is always that hard core which is very difficult to integrate into the labour market.
"You have to try a multi-agency approach and become more labour intensive. A lot of evidence shows that if you can get people into the system the critical thing is one-to-one support in the early months. But is the funding available for that kind of support?" he asked.