Harry’s Concerns Answered by Deputy Prime Minister

Dear Mr Carter

Thank you for your email in which you raised a number of issues relating to young people and their training and educational opportunities.  You have clearly put a lot of thought into this.

You will know from the number of times I have raised this issue that I care passionately that young people should have the chance to get a solid career grounding.  I have stated that our young people have enormous potential and enthusiasm and we have to do whatever we can to help them aspire to be happy and successful, and look to the future with hope.  I meet regularly with many young people and have been really impressed by their self-awareness and resilience and what many have achieved despite their sometimes very difficult personal circumstances.

The £1billion package you refer to, the ‘Youth Contract’ is just the latest in a series of measures the Coalition Government has announced to help remove some of the huge inequalities in our society and I am pleased that – as a young person yourself – you support this measure. Liberal Democrats have long called for a significant increase in apprenticeships and Lib Dem Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has made this a priority. Apprenticeships have reached record highs in the academic year 2010/11, thanks to Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government. More than 440,000 learners started an apprenticeship last year, which is an increase of 50% compared to the year before.

The key measures in the Youth Contract include:

 Cash payments to encourage employers to recruit young people.

  • There will be 160,000 job subsidies available worth up to £2,275 each for businesses who take on an 18-24 year-old from the Work Programme.
  • This is more than enough to cover an employer’s National Insurance contributions for a year and exceeds the recommendations by the CBI in their recent report on youth employment.

 An extra 250,000 Work Experience places over the next three years, taking the total to at least 100,000 a year.

  • This will come with an offer of a Work Experience place for every 18 to 24 year-old who wants one, before they enter the Work Programme.
  • Figures show that the Work Experience scheme is proving effective, with half of under-25 year-olds coming off benefits within three months.

At least 20,000 extra incentive payments worth £1,500 each for employers to take on young people as apprentices, taking the total number of payments available to 40,000 next year.

 Extra support through Jobcentre Plus in the form of weekly, rather than fortnightly, signing-on meetings, more time to talk to an adviser and a National Careers Service interview.

I am pleased that you also recognise that apprenticeships are proven to boost the life chances of young people, and are a sound investment in our future competitiveness.   Vince Cable has ensured additional support will be provided to help the smallest firms meet training costs during these difficult times and has put in measures to further strengthen the apprenticeships programme.

  •  Processes will be simplified to make it quicker and easier for employers to take on an apprentice. The National Apprenticeships Service and training providers will be required to ensure that every employer is in a position to advertise a vacancy within one month of deciding to take on an apprentice. Health and safety requirements will be streamlined so that there are no additional demands on employers that already meet national standards.
  •  There will be a renewed focus on targeting the programme where apprenticeships deliver greatest value – including on younger adults, new employees, higher level qualifications and particular sectors where they can make the greatest impact.
  •  Apprenticeship providers will be required to offer training in English and Maths up to the standard of a good GCSE (level 2) for all apprenticeships.
  •  A new review into the standards and quality of apprenticeships will be undertaken by a leading employer. Reporting in spring 2012, the review will help ensure Government works effectively with training providers and businesses to continually raise the standards of all apprenticeships, and that training keeps pace with the changing needs of industry.

 We are determined to tackle youth unemployment and get our economy back on track.  Apprenticeships are a huge part of that.

 If you wish to know more detailed information on how apprenticeships work and what is offered it is available at http://www.apprenticeships.org.uk/

 You raise concerns over the abolition of the Educational Maintenance Allowance. It has been replaced with a more effective learner support fund that will target more help at those who need it most. The fund will be administered by schools and colleges themselves, free from central government interference.  Head teachers and staff, who know the students best, are clearly in a better position to decide who needs extra support than bureaucrats in Whitehall. This means that the new fund will be better able to target those young people who face a real financial barrier to participation. 

 You will know that the compulsory participation age will be raised to 18 by 2015. Therefore we no longer need an incentive for pupils to stay in education; rather we need to support those who need extra help due to financial disadvantage. This is exactly why the Government has retargeted money at the most vulnerable students through the learner support fund.  Young people will be able to choose whether to stay in full-time education, undertake work-based learning such as an Apprenticeship, or part-time education or training if they are employed, self-employed or volunteering for more than 20 hours per week.

You may like to find out more about the work underway in preparation of this change.  It can be found at

http://www.education.gov.uk/16to19/participation/rpa/a0075564/raising-the-participation-age-rpa-locally-led-delivery-projectstrials

The Coalition Government has also made a particular commitment to the critical, foundation years by providing 15 hours a week of early years education for the poorest 2 year-olds in our society, on top of pre-school provision for all 3- and 4-year olds – something I have argued for, for the best part of a decade.  I believe firmly that the foundation years also provide the key to a fairer, more socially mobile society.  If we successfully tackle the inequalities here we improve social mobility and reduce social segregation.

The measures we are putting in place are especially important at a time when we are trying to rebalance our economy away from an over-reliance on one sector, financial services, in one place, the City of London, to a more sustainable economy where different sectors and different parts of the country are supported.  I feel that very strongly as a MP from Sheffield, a city with this fantastic heritage and history and tradition of engineering.  I was delighted when it was announced that Sheffield had been chosen for the development of Yorkshire and the Humber’s first University Technical College in Sheffield.  It is due to open in September 2013 and will specialise in developing the technical skills of 14 to 19-year-olds hoping to work in advanced engineering and manufacturing, and digital and new media sectors.

I would encourage you to read the document referred to above, and to follow the links to the others that expand on the work being done to making the extended years of compulsory education or training a success.   I suspect it contains many of the answers to the questions you raised in your email to me such as a decentralised approach and preventing young people slipping into becoming NEETs.  Please come back to me if you have any more questions.

 Yours sincerely

 NICK CLEGG MP

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About HarryCarter

I'm Harry Carter and I represent young people as a Member of the UK Youth Parliament. I'm a young social activist, and I'm working to create a fairer, more supportive and more involved society.
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