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Unemployment rise signals new government’s greatest challenge

The number of people unemployed in the UK rose 53,000 to 2.51 million in the first three months of 2010, according to official figures.

During this period, the Office for National Statistics recorded 941,000 of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work. This is a rise of 18,000 on the previous three months.

“If David Cameron’s incoming coalition government wanted reminding about the economic policy challenge that lies ahead, Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers need look no further than today’s dire official jobs figures,” said Dr John Philpott, chief economic adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

As the Tory-Lib coalition compromises on policy in the national interest, Dr Philpott believes cutting the fiscal deficit while restoring full employment will provide the new government with its sternest test.

“The rhetoric of ‘getting Britain working again’ is about to meet reality,” he said.

The Association of Learning Providers (ALP) warns “serious thinking” will be needed to avoid a “lost generation” of young people.

An ALP spokesman said: “Ministers might want to look, for example, at the proposal in the Liberal Democrat manifesto for a work placement scheme with up to 800,000 places to provide young people with the opportunity to gain skills, qualifications and work experience even if they can’t find a job.

“We also want to see a reversal of the previous administration’s policy of substantially cutting the Entry to Employment programme for 2010-11 which is so important for disadvantaged 16 and 17 year olds.”

The number of over-50s out of work for more than a year rose by 12,000 in the January to March period to 146,000.

According to ALP, the jump in long-term unemployed highlights a need for greater integration of employment and skills programmes.

Alan Tuckett, chief executive of NIACE, echoed calls for greater efficiency in the sector, noting the Tory-Lib government “faces big challenges in steering Britain through to a sustained recovery from recession while promoting social justice and active citizenship”.

Mr Tuckett said: “Public spending on education and training for adults must be used to best effect, to widen participation to those adults who benefited least from their initial education, as well as raising productivity.”

“Important though it is to reduce the deficit, we need to ensure that no-one is left behind as we seize the opportunities of recovery.Now is not the time to limit the chance to learn our way out of the challenges that lie ahead.”

Jason Rainbow

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