Extra careers cash to target 14-year-olds

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SCHOOLCHILDREN of 14 and 15 are to be targeted for careers advice under a pounds 34m scheme to improve job choices by school leavers.

The rise of more than one-fifth in the pounds 140m careers service budget, aimed at improving and extending the present progamme meant mainly for 16-year-olds, may also attract more private sector bids to run local services. An attempt to attract outside contractors, such as Manpower and the Brook Street Bureau employment agencies, has failed.

Yesterday Ann Widdecombe, the Employment minister, said that a mix of public and private sector bodies had been chosen to run careers services in 13 pilot areas.

Last July, the Department of Employment called for companies to take over local careers services, but private sector groups complained that the three-month deadline for bids was too short and that they lacked the information necessary to form an opinion of profitability.

Ms Widdecombe denied the new organisations were a 'repackaging' of the previous service. She said they would be more responsive to the needs of young people and employers. Directors of the new private companies, will be from local councils, Training and Enterprise Councils and employers. There would be a second round of bidding for new areas, but the timetable would allow more than a year for potential private sector bidders to prepare submissions.

The 13 organisations announced yesterday cover Avon, Bedfordshire, Birmingham, the Black Country, Cumbria, Gloucestershire, Leicestershire, Northumberland, North Yorkshire, Oldham, Sunderland, Surrey and Wigan. The minister said that London would be the subject of a separate round of bidding.