David Grailey is chief executive of NCFE, the national awarding organisation

Education changes lives. It gives us the skills, knowledge and experience needed to enter our chosen career or profession, develop our existing skill and learn new areas of expertise.

We all learn in different ways and engaging some people is much harder than others. So how can we ensure that everyone is offered the right learning opportunities to help them succeed?

Unemployment in the UK has now reached over 2.1 million – the first time it has topped 2 million in over two decades. Experts are warning that this figure will easily reach 3 million by the end of the year, which will push the UK’s jobless rate into double figures – which already stand at a worrying 6.7 per cent.

What’s more, young people under the age of 25 make up more than 40 per cent of this figure – with around 857,000 young NEETS currently in the UK.

So what is the solution? As we all know times are tough so it will be a long road to recovery. However, what the education sector now needs to do is work together to make sure we are developing and delivering qualifications which will support, engage and inspire these young people and draw them back into learning.

The Government revealed in The Budget that from January, anyone under the age of 25, who is unemployed for 12 months, will be offered a new job or put into training.

The DWP and DIUS have also invested £500m over two years, targeted at training people who have been out of work for six months or more.

These are both positive steps but we need to ensure we have qualifications available which will be beneficial and will help young people secure employment in the future.

Paving the way with Employability skills

Qualifications in employability skills are one way to ensure young people are equipped for the world of work – especially those who have never been in full-time employment. Other, similar courses such as problem solving, working with others and personal development will also really benefit some of these young people. They may seem like basic courses with straightforward content – but to young people they will give them a great insight into what employers are looking for and could be the difference between employment and unemployment. Functional skills also play a big part in establishing a skills base on which to grow. Anything that makes someone stand out from the crowd of applicants is worth doing.

Re-skilling in key areas

Many young people may already have the skills but in declining areas. We therefore have to look at which sectors are in need of employees and publicise and push these areas. Qualifications in areas such as the care sector will be key – and they can offer young people some real opportunities and career choices.

Reaching places others can’t

Reaching some young people can be half the battle so it is imperative that we continue to develop qualifications that are innovative and engaging. Centres and training organisations are already using a number of NCFE qualifications to engage young NEETS, diverse communities, and non-traditional learners back into education.

A key factor in reaching these non-traditional learners is offering them something innovative – where they learn skills but also learn to work as a team, picking up application skills and working and learning in different environments.

Qualifications such as music technology, interactive media, music business and radio production have already been used in this capacity. Most recently at NCFE we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of students studying enterprise qualifications – a 50 per cent increase in the past six months. Young people across the UK have been studying the qualifications and they have also been used to support a number of self-employment initiatives around the country.

If we offer young people training opportunities which will really engage them in learning, allow them to enjoy the qualifications, whilst also educating them this will be a great start to ensuring young people in this country have a successful future in front of them. Hopefully then they will not be referred to by some as the ‘lost generation’.

The education sector needs to pull together and make sure we continue to develop and relevant qualifications that will support young people – and in the long term support our economy.

David Grailey is the chief executive of NCFE, the qualification awarding body

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