It’s a pleasure to be invited to the Youth Friendly Employment UK Conference.
Youth Employment UK has been a valued partner on the ‘WE can’ youth campaign.
Through that and your other work you have inspired many young people, and helped to equip them with the skills and experience they need and employers value.
I’d also like to thank Laura-Jane Rawlings, founder of Youth Employment UK, for your leadership and long-standing dedication to young people.
I know that you believe, as do I, that it is only through tackling these issues together and listening to young people that we will be able to make positive change.
So, I look forward to continuing to work with all of you on the next phase – the joint youth campaign which will launch next month.
Importance of work
I believe in recognising the value of work and in supporting people’s aspiration to achieve.
I want all young people to be able to benefit from the rewards that work brings.
Not just the financial rewards, but the sense of purpose and pride that comes from having a job.
That is now a realistic prospect for many more young people than it was immediately after the recession.
Five years ago, the task before us was enormous, a time when there had been a 44% increase in youth employment.
That is why we acted to prevent even more young people from being denied the security of a job and the opportunities that flow from that.
It’s why we in government created 2 million apprenticeships in the last Parliament and introduced work experience placements to give young unemployed people the experience and skills they need to get on in the workplace.
That is why we created the New Enterprise Allowance to support those who want to start up new businesses and move into self-employment.
As a result of these efforts, we are seeing positive progress being made:
- youth unemployment is over a quarter of a million lower than it was in 2010, with the employment rate at its highest in over 10 years
- the youth claimant count is down 40,000 this year
- the number of young people who are not in education, employment or training is down 106,000 over the last year and is at its lowest level for over 10 years
- the number and proportion of 16 and 17 year olds who are not in education, employment or training are the lowest since 2001
- the proportion of young people who are not working or in full-time education is the lowest on record
- and importantly we now have more employment opportunities for young people of all backgrounds from across the country
Building on progress made
Despite that progress, we can and must do more.
We can never stand still when we know almost a million young people are not in education, employment or training.
That’s a million young people who risk being locked out of the world of work, potentially for an entire lifetime.
That is a personal tragedy for them. It’s also a lost opportunity for employers – and indeed society – to realise the potential of those young people.
Today, I want to highlight some of the initiatives we are taking to ensure no young person is left behind.
Earn or learn approach
At the heart of our approach is ensuring all young people are either earning or learning.
Our jobcentres are now fully focused towards helping young people overcome the barriers they face in a way they may not have been in the past:
- young people can spend more time with their work coaches to improve job search skills
- they receive specialist careers advice through the National Careers Service
- work coaches can refer young people to work experience and sector-based work academy placements to provide valuable experience
- and since October, we have provided intensive support for single jobseekers aged 18 to 24 claiming Universal Credit
These are all important areas of support available to young people.
But it’s important that that support is targeted and provided at the right time, in the right place.
Many young people still leave school not understanding the full range of employment options open to them and they themselves are unsure how to progress into employment.
This is simply not good enough and it is my job to work across government to ensure we end this cycle of missed opportunities and wasted potential.
Jobcentre Plus work coaches in schools
So we are taking action to prevent young people drifting into worklessness and benefit dependency by engaging with them before they leave school.
Jobcentres are now helping young people at school get the support they need to progress into employment or training.
This will supplement existing schools careers advice and be targeted at those in danger of not being in employment, education or training.
Jobcentres will coordinate this support with the new Careers and Enterprise Company.
And for the first time in a long while we will bring together that all important support and advice on work experience, apprenticeships and traineeships and the world of work closer to those that need it most.
I want to make specific mention of the importance of apprenticeships.
As I mentioned, government supported the creation of over 2 million apprenticeships in the last Parliament and that ambition continues to grow as we seek to support the creation of 3 million more over the next 5 years.
Why focus so much on apprenticeships?
Well, the truth is that many young people need a helping hand to realise their potential.
Not everyone can make the leap straight into work.
Apprenticeships and work experience offer a stepping stone that can open the door to the world of work.
Apprenticeships provide a real taste for a possible career, while at the same time employers are investing in that young person so they can reach their full potential.
Quality apprenticeships result in lifelong career opportunities and success, which is why we will work with all larger employers in the public and private sector to help fund the increase in quality of apprenticeship training.
Role of employers – Movement to Work
And I know many businesses are stepping up to provide quality apprenticeships.
But their role goes beyond this. They are becoming more ‘youth friendly’, support young people into work, for example by recruiting on the basis of potential rather than purely qualifications.
I’ve seen and heard the personal stories of many young people who have been given a chance by an employer and succeeded.
These are examples of what is possible with some determination and an open-minded employer that can see the potential in a person, rather than potential problems.
Collective action from employers is so important whether through delivering apprenticeships or by challenging assumptions about young people.
I want to mention one scheme that has been incredibly successful.
Movement to Work marked its second anniversary this year.
It has supported more than 25,000 young unemployed people to undertake work experience or training with some of the UK’s top employers.
That has resulted in more than half of them going on to secure jobs.
An incredible result.
I’m pleased too that the Civil Service too joined this initiative.
The Prime Minister pledged that the Civil Service would provide 6,000 Movement to Work placements last year.
I’m pleased to say we exceeded that, contributing over 7,000 placements.
Around half of these entered employment or are no longer claiming benefits shortly after their placement.
This year, the Civil Service has once again committed to contributing 6,000 placements – 4,500 of these will be delivered in my department, DWP.
Again, around half go into employment or come off benefits after their placement.
So, having seen the successes this programme is delivering, I want to encourage any employers here today who have yet to sign up to do so.
The UK has one of the strongest labour markets in the world – employment rates are at record levels, with record numbers of 16 to 24 year olds either in full-time study or in work.
But there is still much work to be done.
Through our early support in schools, our focus on keeping 16 and 17 year-olds in education, employment or training, the extra 3 million new apprenticeships and our challenge to employers, we are continuing to build on the progress we have made so far, providing our nation’s young people with the experience, skills and confidence they need – and deserve.