From education to employment

Lawrence Miles, chief officer of the IVA, gives us his take on the Education and Skills Bill announ

When the Queen announced that her Government was committed to raising educational standards and giving everyone the chance to reach their full potential, I immediately warmed to politicians. How was this commitment, rightly endorsed by Her Majesty and shared by all, to be achieved? Perhaps it had been realised that now was a good time to turn on those who gnaw away at our resources and stigmatise them. I speak of course, of the Neets. Not the nice Neets who drift from gap year to ill-conceived higher education courses that lead on to negligible job prospects, but the proper Neets. We have much to stigmatise, much to label.

Take unmarried mothers. Female Neets are over 20 times more likely to be single teenage mothers. Inextricably linked to this rise in the numbers of single mothers is the damaging absence of good male role models in many homes. The unemployed young men thus spawned have become major contributors to the rising crime rate.

The impact has been to create another lost generation, wiped out as convincingly as an earlier one was on the World War I battlefields. To put Neets into context, a fifth of the age group do nothing. From Neet threshold to premature death a single Neet cohort of say, 150,000, will cost you and me £15 billion, including £250 million in teenage mum payouts and over £8 billion in benefits.

So how do we turn Neets into Eets (educated, employed & trained)? The Government’s answer is to introduce a Bill to ensure that young people stay in education or training until age 18. Does the Government not realise that the schools have passed up on their primary responsibility of conditioning children for their role in the community and the workplace. 16-18 is too late for conditioning. Regular school attendance is already a thing of the past. Low participation in the workplace is not going to be reversed by keeping children on at school. It would be better to lower the school leaving age and get more young people into work, earning and vocational training sooner. Tax credits that top up earnings are preferable to handouts for dropouts. Small and medium-sized employers will participate in large numbers if they can see that the workplace gets the first pick of young talent rather than the last.

Lawrence Miles, Chief Officer, IVA

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