Nick Clegg makes youth jobs pledge


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Indy Politics

The Deputy Prime Minister pledged today to create jobs "that are not just here today and gone tomorrow" as he launched his £1 billion flagship scheme to get young people into work.

Nick Clegg said the Youth Contract would offer a route into work for young people, creating at least 410,000 new jobs over the next three years.

On a visit to a Job Centre Plus in Poplar, east London, with Employment Minister Chris Grayling, Mr Clegg met young people who will benefit from the scheme.

After chatting to jobseekers who were receiving advice ahead of interviews for work experience in the media centre at the Olympics, Mr Clegg said unemployment could have a "scarring effect" on young people.

He said: "From today, if you are 18-24 and out of work, you can get down to a Job Centre like this because they will be able to offer you the opportunities to either earn or learn, to either take up work, which we will part subsidise, or the expanded apprentice prospects or the increasing number of work experience placements.

"What we are saying to employers is if you are wondering if you are going to take the plunge to employ a young person then we will help you make that decision by providing some money ourselves and we hope that will tip the employer in favour of the young person.

"The key thing here is that by creating the partnership between the subsidy from us, the Government, and the employer we hope that means the employer will keep that young person on beyond the six months of the subsidy so that we create jobs that are not just here today and gone tomorrow but jobs that last for young people for years into the future."

Mr Clegg spoke to some jobseekers who had been out of work since they left education.

"There are close to a million young people that are out of work that is a figure that is far too high and creates real long term scarring effects if young people are locked out of work," he said.

"Of course if the scheme works I want us to do even more of it in future because youth unemployment, in my view, is one of the biggest challenges we face as a country."

Under the Youth Contract, first announced last November, firms will be offered £2,275 "wage incentives" to take on up to 160,000 under-25s, while the scheme will also create an additional 250,000 work experience placements.

Small businesses will also be encouraged to recruit their first apprentices with an extra 20,000 incentive payments.

The supermarket chain Morrisons, together with E-on, Phones4U and Barclays have agreed to invest the wage incentives they receive in charities which train up young people who lack the skills needed for the world of work.

However Labour last night released figures showing the number of under 25-year-olds out of work has more than doubled since the start of last year when Mr Clegg reportedly first raised the issue in Cabinet.

According to the figures calculated by the independent House of Commons Library, the numbers of 18 to 24-year-olds out of work for more than six months have risen from 73,000 to 156,000 - a 114% increase.

Those out of work for 12 months or more increased from 20,000 to 49,000 - a jump of 145%.

Unemployment minister Chris Grayling denounced the figures as a "complete distortion of the truth", saying long-term youth unemployment had "barely changed" for two years.

He said: "Youth unemployment is one of the biggest challenges this country faces and we're determined to make a difference to a problem that's been building up for much of the past decade.

"What we're offering through the Youth Contract is real practical support to both employers and job seekers which we hope will give young people a head start in the labour market."

John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Business isn't just good for Britain, it's good for young people too. Companies tell me they are ready to play their part to support the next generation into work, since young people are vital to future business success.

"Yet for too many businesses, economic uncertainty has made it tough to hire more young people over recent months. Companies are concerned that many lack basic skills or past work experience. That translates into higher training costs and greater risk for employers.

"The Youth Contract will significantly reduce those risks and give employers more confidence to invest in young people. We are pleased that the Government has listened to our concerns about administration and about the need for up-front payments, particularly for smaller businesses who are keen on taking up the scheme but worried about delays. Chambers of commerce up and down the country will be promoting the placements, apprenticeships and job subsidies available under the Youth Contract - and will help more young people take their first step into the world of work.

"If the Youth Contract proves successful and popular with our employers, we will push for it to be extended even further."

Anne Marie Carrie, chief executive of children's charity Barnardo's, added: "Barnardo's is committed to being part of the solution when it comes to providing tailored, dedicated support to young people looking for work. We see our participation in the Youth Contract as vital because of our expertise in transforming the lives of those most in need.

"Young people want to earn and learn but may feel like giving up if there are insufficient opportunities for them to climb on to the first rung of the employment ladder. In today's challenging economic times, there is a real need for employers to open their doors to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged."

Jennifer Lee, director of human resources at hotel chain Jurys Inn, said the company is backing the scheme.

"Joining up to the Youth Contract scheme is just another way of demonstrating the company's commitment to creating and supporting exceptional people, and to achieving a culture that values people and their contributions to the business."