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Eradicating long-term youth unemployment is a bold ambition, but one that we can and must achieve

Tony Wilson, Director of the Institute for Employment Studies (IES)

Kickstart, Restart, more traineeships, the £2,000 Apprenticeships incentive, more funding for careers services, the JETS programme, a new Job Finding Support Service, doubling of Jobcentre Plus work coaches, the Flexible Support Fund…

There’s no question that the government deserves credit for the scale of its response to the emerging crisis in the labour market, particularly for young people.

All of these measures were announced within months of lockdown, and while these things often take time to roll out we will see more and more the benefits of this investment in the months ahead.

There is definitely more that we could and should be doing – in particular around skills and training support, help for older unemployed people and support for disabled people and those with health conditions – and I hope that the Budget next month will take action on all of these.

But the Plan for Jobs has been a really good start.

A complicated, fragmented and disjointed youth employment and skills system

However while all of these measures are welcome, we need to recognise and deal with the fact that the sheer scale and breadth of these new initiatives has made an already complicated, fragmented and disjointed youth employment and skills system even more messy and harder to navigate – for advisers, employers and of course young people themselves.

The biggest risk now is that those young people who are most in need end up slipping through the cracks, or find themselves just being pushed into what’s available rather than what they want or need.

Last summer the Prime Minister talked about an Opportunity Guarantee for young people – something that we and my co-chairs in the Youth Employment Group have been calling for since last spring – and we urgently need to now deliver on that promise.

So in my view the only way that we will make sense of this landscape for young people, and make good on the ambition of the Plan for Jobs, is by committing to a guarantee that all young people will have the offer of a good job, training or education place and that no-one need become long-term unemployed.

Delivering an Opportunity Guarantee for young people

Kickstart will be a key part of that Opportunity Guarantee, and will surely need to be extended beyond the end of this year. But with there already being more long-term unemployed young people (190 thousand) than there are Kickstart commitments (120 thousand), it will only ever be one part of our response and it will need to be focused on those who need it most.

Delivering on a proper youth guarantee, and eradicating long-term youth unemployment, will be a bold ambition but one that we can and must achieve if we work together – starting from the top.

Tony Wilson, Director of the Institute for Employment Studies (IES)

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