Neet no more

14th September 2007 at 01:00
The term "Neet" is not to be used any more, but the schools-business group set up to tackle the issue of youngsters not in education, employment or training, will retain the same broad objectives under the new Scottish Government.

The Smith Group will continue to target the one in five school-leavers who come under their remit and plans to announce more private sector-backed jobs and work ex-perience to help them later this year.

"NEET" is not in the vocabulary of Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, and her SNP colleagues, it was made clear last week.

"It is a useful acronym, except it has connotations like 'neds', and that is unfortunate," said Sir Robert Smith, founder of the Smith Group which advised the former Scottish Executive led by Jack McConnell.

Sir Robert plans to drop the acronym but continues to talk about the "16-19 year-olds not in education, employment or training".

Even the phrase "children at risk of missing out" which could be labelled "Charm" would be open to abuse, he suggested: "People might say: 'Here come the charmers'."

On the more serious issue of the group's mission, that remains un-changed and members have the backing of the First Minister Alex Salmond and Mrs Hyslop, he said: "I detect that they are less enamoured of precise targets and more con cerned about aims and outcomes."

Sir Robert said the group was working on a plan for private sector employers to offer more work experience and jobs to the target group. But part of the equation was finding public or voluntary sector support for the youngsters to ensure they turned up for work. "If there is no mechanism for dealing with that, then employers will say: 'We tried that, never again'. We want to be sure that backing is in place."

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