Government to launch work academies

The Government will today launch work academies offering training and a guaranteed job interview to up to 50,000 people ahead of new figures set to show another rise in youth unemployment.

Some commentators believe the number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work will top the one million mark when today's official data from the Office for National Statistics is released.

There were 973,000 unemployed people in the age group last month, a jobless rate of over 20%, leading to calls from unions and campaign groups for Government action.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said that coupled with the Work Programme and the Work Experience scheme, the new work academies will support up to 150,000 young people over the next few months and 250,000 over the next two years.

Industries covered by the work academies include construction, hospitality, logistics, retail and contact centres, where the Government said there were tens of thousands of job vacancies.

Mr Grayling said: "Sector-based work academies are the next key part of our strategy to tackle youth unemployment. With training, work experience and a guaranteed interview, they will put people at the front of the queue for vacancies that employers are looking to fill."

Under the initiative, employers are being urged to offer work experience placements or guaranteed job interviews.

The Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) Commission on Youth Unemployment, chaired by Labour MP David Miliband, said today's jobless figures would be a "wake up call" about the future of young people.

Mr Miliband said: "Youth unemployment scars people for life, particularly if it is prolonged, and at today's levels it will be costing the country millions of pounds a week.

"Our aim is to understand the problems we face, arrive at the right solutions, and then act. We must not let the scourge of unemployment leave a permanent mark on the hundreds of thousands of young people living through it today."

Howard Archer, chief UK & European economist at IHS Global Insight, said claimant count unemployment is forecast to have risen by 30,000 in September after rises of 20,300 in August and 33,700 in July, which would be a seventh successive increase and take the number of claimant count unemployed up to a 22-month high of more than 1.6 million.

"While claimant count unemployment is being pushed up by changes made to the benefits system earlier this year, the recent deterioration clearly runs deeper than that.

"The claimant count unemployment rate is expected to have climbed to 5.0% in September from 4.9% in August, 4.8% in June and a low of 4.5% in the five months through to March.

"Furthermore, the number of jobless on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) measure is seen rising by around 90,000 in the three months to August to reach a near 17-year high of 2.54 million. This would see the ILO unemployment rate climb to 8.0%," he said.

"The worry is that, having showed impressive resilience earlier this year, the labour market is now increasingly buckling under serious pressure from weak economic activity and accelerating job losses in the public sector.

"We expect unemployment to continue to rise over the latter months of 2011 and the first half of 2012 as public sector jobs are increasingly pared and private sector companies become more cautious in the face of persistently sluggish economic activity."

Activists from Youth Fight for Jobs, who are recreating the Jarrow March of 75 years ago, will stage a protest in Sheffield today to mark the latest unemployment figures.

They are marching 330 miles to London to demand a program of job creation not "job destruction".

Westminster City Council launched plans to invest up to £180,000 on schemes to help young people classified as 'Neets' - not in education or training - into work.

Brian Connell, cabinet member for business, skills and volunteering, said: "Unemployment can have a brutal impact on young people, particularly those who are at risk of or have been involved in criminal behaviour.

"We need to give our young people the opportunities they so rightly deserve to get out of a cycle of worklessness and dependency on the state, and back into society as functioning members of the community.

"Sitting back and doing nothing risks leaving the next generation behind, and we are not prepared to let that happen to our young people in Westminster."

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Now is certainly not the time to be young and looking for work. There is every chance that the Chancellor's austerity measures will be responsible for pushing joblessness amongst those under the age of 24 into the seven-figure bracket.

"Even if the million mark isn't passed in the latest quarterly figures, that depressing milestone will almost inevitably be here very soon.

"With the economic outlook the gloomiest it's been since the end of the recession, and a double-dip beckoning, the bleak prospects facing young jobseekers will be with us for some considerable time to come."

Katja Hall, the CBI's chief policy director, said: "These work academies should help improve the employment chances of those who find it hardest to get a job, as long as they are targeted in areas which need it most.

"With two and a half million people looking for work, tackling unemployment has to be a top priority. Growth alone will not tackle underlying structural unemployment problems, especially in parts of the UK that need a more detailed plan to get people ready for work."

Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, told BBC Breakfast that growth was needed to create jobs

"It is not a problem with young people or the labour market, it is a problem with the economy as a whole," he said.

"There just isn't enough demand there and unfortunately Government policy, by cutting public sector jobs, is making the problem worse rather than better."