£126 million back to work plan

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Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has promised to deal with the “ticking time bomb” of teenagers who are not in work, school or training with a massive cash injection.

He announced today (Tuesday) a £126m scheme to get 16- and 17-year-olds back into employment or education.

The initiative is part of the government’s youth contract scheme announced last November which is aimed at tackling unemployment among young people.

But business representatives say for the scheme to work commitment and the right attitude needs to be shown by the young people taking part – otherwise their worth to companies is negligable,

Under the scheme charities and businesses will be invited to bid for contracts worth up to £2,200 to take on teenagers and will receive an initial payment up front, and more money when the youngsters show progress.

At least 55,000 so-called “neets” – not in education, employment or training - and who have no GCSEs at grades C or above are expected to benefit.

Mr Clegg said: “Sitting at home with nothing to do when you’re so young can knock the stuffing out of you for years. It is a tragedy for the young people involved – a ticking time bomb for the economy and our society as a whole.

“This problem isn’t new, but in the current economic climate we urgently need to step up efforts to ensure some of our most troubled teenagers have the skills, confidence and opportunities to succeed.”

The news has been welcomed by Kent’s business community, but the Federation of Small Businesses emphasised that the young people themselves have to demonstrate the right attitude when it comes to the workplace.

Roger House, FSB Chairman for Kent and Medway said: “Employers need enthusiastic young people, ready to work. The right attitude and work ethic are essential and under the Youth Contract young people will be able to demonstrate their value in the workplace and to the business.”

“Schools provide students with knowledge and skills, however businesses rank attitude as very important; inter-personal communication, team working, punctuality and self discipline. Sadly these qualities are absent in some youngsters.”

“To assist schools to better prepare their students for employment the FSB in Kent is backing Young Enterprise, encouraging participation in their Company Programme that will provide insight into the world of business, commerce and entrepreneurship.”

This age group of teenagers has been singled out because evidence suggests that unemployment early on in a person’s working life can have a permanent effect on earning potential.

Statistically, at age 42, someone who has been frequently unemployed as a teenager is likely to earn up to 15 per cent less than their peers, the Department for Education said.

The announcement comes after the latest unemployment figures showed that the numbers of 16- to 24-year-olds not in work increased by 22,000 to 1.04 million in the three months to December.

Figures for the third quarter of last year, showed that more than a million 16- to 24-year-olds, or 1,163,000 – almost one in five, were considered neets.

Mr Clegg added: “Many of them will have complex problems: truancy, teenage pregnancy, a lack of GCSEs and health problems.

“So helping them onto their feet will not be without challenges and Government cannot do this alone.

“But we all have a duty to reach out to the young people who can be hardest to reach.

“That’s why today I am calling on charities and other organisations at the coal face to work with Government to help tens and thousands of lost teenagers onto a brighter path.”

The scheme will give businesses complete freedom in how they provide support.

Tim Loughton, children and young people’s minister, said: “Providers know how best to support young people back into education training and employment.

“We are looking forward to receiving some innovative ideas that really work from experienced organisations in all sectors.”

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