In the UK youth unemployment is at its highest rate since figures began in 1992, with more than 1 in 5 young people in the UK currently out of work.  All this despite the recent modest decrease in unemployment across the UK.

And whilst this figure of almost 22% is still a long way from the 50% youth unemployment of Greece and Spain it is worth remembering that only 5 years ago their figures were pretty similar to where we are now.  As the UK languishes at the bottom of the OECDs latest youth unemployment figures we can see that we compare poorly against Norway, Switzerland and Germany with figures of less than 8% each.

Commentators have claimed that in Germany and the Netherlands, their vocational education system steers young people into specific career paths.  And with a strong manufacturing base (as opposed to the UK focus on the ‘knowledge economy’) this certainly makes sense.

So what can we do?

Here in the UK apprenticeships could provide the biggest opportunity for our young people to develop the skills they need. And for apprenticeships to remain effective, colleges and training providers need to be aware of, and prepared for, the changes to apprenticeship frameworks that will, by the end of September, see Functional Skills replace Key Skills.

Functional Skills qualifications were developed in response to the employability needs set out in the government’s 14-19 Education and Skills White Paper.  They are not about the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic and the use of ICT, but the acquisition of these basic skills help to underpin problem solving, instil confidence and heighten an individual’s ability to learn.

At NCFE we offer the full suite of Functional Skills qualifications – and we’re committed to providing advice and guidance to all our customers during this transition period.

To this end, NCFE is hosting free information and training events for our Functional Skills qualifications. These events are aimed at curriculum managers, programme leaders and tutors within colleges and training providers who are delivering or considering delivering one or more of the NCFE Functional Skills qualifications in English, Mathematics and ICT.

We will share information on preparation and how to contextualise the qualifications to different sectors, student activities, delivery and evidence gathering. There will also be an opportunity to share ideas with colleagues and discuss any questions on the qualifications and their content.

We’re also delighted to announce that along with presentations from the NCFE team, we also have two leading educational professionals speaking at the events; Maureen Emmett MBA, Director of Providing Solutions Ltd and Margaret Thomas, Chief Moderator for NCFE.

To book your place please go to  www.ncfe.org.uk or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

David Grailey is chief executive of NCFE, the training provider

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