Drop-outs to be paid to go to college

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The Independent Online
TEENAGE DROP-OUTS are to be paid to go back into education under a Government scheme to be announced this week.

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, is to announce a pilot programme for 16 and 17-year-olds who have left school and have no jobs. They will be given a Government allowance if they decide to go back to college to gain GCSEs or another equivalent qualification.

The move is part of a new Government initiative targeting the 100,000 16 or 17-year-olds who are unemployed or in dead-end jobs. Because of changes made by the former Conservative government, young people in this age group do not qualify for Income Support.

In a speech to the Confederation of British Industry on Tuesday, the Education Secretary also will announce the creation of a National Traineeship Scheme to replace the Conservatives' Youth Training Scheme. The system of apprenticeships will offer employers financial incentives to train young people on the job.

Labour is keen to avoid comparisons with the last government's programme which was criticised for using young people as cheap labour with no prospects at the end of their traineeship. The Labour scheme will offer "paper" qualifications at the end of the programme.

Youth campaigners are likely to insist that the new qualifications have a value that will improve young people's career prospects. They will be critical if the traineeships do not offer rewarding employment which can lead to the advancement of young people.

"There will be a gateway approach, a targeted approach," an aide to the Education Secretary said. "These are young people who don't get benefits, who are not in education and training. The overall programme is to help achieve national targets to help young people into training and work."

At the moment the parents of 16 or 17-year-olds at college qualify for extra benefits if they are on Income Support. But in the pilot scheme the Government intends to reroute benefits to the students themselves to give them greater independence and an incentive to study.

The Government is concerned that many young people have opted for dead- end jobs with no prospects for the future, such as road sweeping or waitressing in a greasy-spoon cafe. It intends to introduce measures to allow youths to retrain and will take steps to allow young people to take off one day a week to attend a further education college to acquire more skills.

The Government is to target companies without in-built training programmes. It will place notices in JobCentres and launch a national advertising campaign.