From education to employment

NEETs respond to Budget’s Flexible New Deal

When Chancellor Alistair Darling released his much awaited budget report this Wednesday one particular demographic would soon hear their fate.

Other wise known as NEETs (not currently engaged in education, employment or training) they are the youths of our nation who make up a large part of the 2.1 million unemployed in the UK.

More than 850,000 people aged 18-24 were not engaged in useful activity in December 2008 according to figures obtained by the Conservative party.

To counter the problems more and more struggling youths are facing, Mr Darling announced measures in his budget under what is called a Flexible New Deal. It includes £1.7 billion in funding for high-quality support, work placements or training for people who have been out of work for 12 months, and the creation of 250,000 jobs.

The tailored help that the Job Centre Plus Network provides was particularly praised by the Chancellor because it effectively reduces the amount of time people spend out of work by half.

"Its tailored help has almost halved the average time people spend out of work compared to previous recessions," he said.

The Job Center Plus Network will receive a staggering amount of funding to the tune of £1.7 billion, but funding for further education is dwarfed by such a huge figure.

It was announced £260 million of new money has been set aside for training and subsidies to help people get the skills or experience needed in sectors with strong future demand. Likewise, a further £250m this year and £400m in 2010-11 will enable an additional 54,000 places, in sixth forms and further education colleges.

The Engineering and Technology Board (ETB) suggested the £1.7bn investment in Job Centres should be used for retraining people in key sectors such as engineering.

"As part of the £1.7bn for job centres, priority must also be given to retraining skilled professionals from declining sectors," said ETB chief executive Paul Jackson.

These sentiments have been echoed by the Union of Colleges and Universities (UCU) who said the Chancellor did not take the opportunity to offer more for the higher education sector.

The UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "Colleges can play a key role in helping to train people, especially those made redundant or unable to find work, but they need proper infrastructure and support … Now, more than ever, people need support for a second chance."

Ricky Carter, a 21-year-old from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, left school at 15 without GCSE’s, and lost his job in removals 3 months ago when work dried up.

He said the Job Center has advised him where to look for jobs and he sometimes receives leaflets, but he wishes they would sit down and explain them.

A frequent visitor to the Job Center Plus, he wishes the money was spent on facilities like training centers.

Karen Orchard, an 18-year-old also from Stevenage, found herself in a similar position when she left college a year ago. Since completing a course in hospitality she has worked at various establishments such as Costa coffee and seasonal work in a toy shop.

However, work has been intermittent so since turning 18 this year she has claimed job seekers allowance and visited Job Center Plus for help.

According to Karen, she too was told to visit agencies, and look in newspapers but she is finding it difficult to put a foot in the door with little experience. She would like to see more money injected into businesses that can employ people in situations like her own.

As Neets figures continue to rise, youths like Ricky and Karen find themselves deflated and stuck in a stagnant economy.

Time will tell if the budget measures are sufficient to aid the worsening situation, as Mr Darling prophesied on Wednesday: "Mr Deputy Speaker, there are no quick fixes. No overnight solutions."

Sophie Knowles

(Pictured: Karen Ochard, 18, visits a Job Centre Plus in Hertfordshire for help)

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