One of the few things that everyone has agreed on during the pandemic is that it will take a heavy toll on jobs and that those who will be most affected will be those who have disadvantages in the job market be that a lack of skills and experience and those that have physical or mental barriers. It is therefore a relief that one of the Chancellors big priorities in the spending review is protecting and creating jobs.
Clearly spending will be under pressure in the years to come but there is some spending that will be a real investment in the economy and will create the capacity to recover from the economic hit from the pandemic. Investment in jobs and skills and in the skills of younger people must be seen in that light so it seems that the government recognises that this investment must be made now, I think! The Youth Employment UK team has seen a massive increase in the web site traffic so we know that there is an immediate need to support young people.
The headline for the statement is that there will be £2.9bn spent on the long term unemployed. This is not any sort of new initiative it is the cost of providing programmes for the long term unemployed that have always been in place. The additional funding is because there will no doubt be more unemployed. There is of course a new name Restart but it is important we learn the lesson from all of the other previous programmes namely that they have to be focussed on what people need and those that need most support do not fit into the neat programme parameters that may be set up. These programmes are also not stand alone and must fit into the existing framework of skills programmes that already exist such as ESF and AEB. It means that the DWP have to work with the providers of the programmes from an early stage and create flexible, adaptable programmes with clear, transparent success measures that reward good performance. Let’s learn some lessons from the past through a development process that involves the delivery partners and the clients, particularly young people.
The Chancellor has also confirmed that there will be support for the Kickstart scheme, The ‘new’ funding to support skills, including Level 3 skills from 2021, the extension of the Apprenticeship incentives and the additional funding for Traineeships. All of these initiatives are good and focussed on young people who need most help. But we know these initiatives do not go far enough and will not prevent even more redundancies and unemployment for young people as the latest lockdown takes its toll on the industries and jobs that young people would have taken. Of course more investment will be needed but as important will be to make the current initiatives more effective by talking to those stakeholders who have vast experience of making these programmes work on the ground and in particular those who work with young people and give them a voice in the development of the programmes, including the key additional investment in careers advice and guidance.
Kickstart for example has been launched with big elements of the programme still to be decided and the training of the people on the scheme not really covered. We need to create a more structured approach to the gateway and training issues before the employers get frustrated. And we are all concerned that Kickstart programmes reduce the opportunity for young people to join a permanent programme like Apprenticeships so why not allow the Kickstart subsidy to transfer with the young person if they can get an Apprenticeship. It highlights the absolute need for the different government departments to work together. In particular, the DWP and DfE but also those departments involved in the infrastructure projects which could create the opportunities for jobs and skills for young people and those with the greatest barriers to entry into the job market. This will not happen unless we make it happen.
YEUK has worked with a number of government departments and regional combined authorities and as part of the wider Youth Employment Group so it is encouraging that the Chancellor has jobs as his number one priority and young people are a clear focus. The government has to make a commitment to work with all the key stakeholders to make this happen and make it happen now.
Stewart Segal – Chair of Youth Employment UK