Employment minister Chris Grayling has attacked the UK’s school system for failing to prepare teenagers for the world of work.
The Department for Work and Pensions minister said he was “genuinely shocked” by “the very small number of young people coming out of school with good GCSE passes in core subjects”. Employers’ biggest complaint when hiring was not being able to find enough “enthusiastic” and “work ready” young people for existing vacancies, he said.
Official figures show fewer than one-in-six people gained decent passes in core GCSE subjects last year.
Mr Grayling said: “The current situation is unacceptable. We need a school system that does a better job in preparing people for what they’re going to need to be able to do when they leave school.” Too many young people ended up in a lost generation of unemployment and benefits, he said.
The employment minister is pinning his hopes on the Government’s new Work Programme to better prepare unemployed people for work and match them into suitable jobs – currently there are more than 450,000 vacancies in the UK.
The Work Programme, to be launched in June, will replace existing back-to-work schemes already offered through Jobcentre Plus. The main difference is that welfare providers will be paid by “results” – the number of people they get into sustainable jobs. For the first time, private sector powerhouses such as PricewaterhouseCoopers will oversee specialist support organisations geared at getting the unemployed back to work, from conducting CV workshops to making candidates “job ready”.
People who are forced off incapacity benefits because they are found “fit for work” will join the Work Programme after just three months, while unemployed under-25s will be eligible after nine months. Providers will be paid differently depending on how difficult it is to get claimants a job.
Mr Grayling said he and George Osborne had thought long and hard over the effectiveness of the scheme, claiming it placed harder demands on providers – they will not receive the bulk of their payment for at least two years for harder-to-help candidates – while becoming “immensely profitable”.
But, he said: “They can only be profitable if organisations put billions [into] getting some of the more challenged people in our society back to work.”
From April, Jobcentres will also offer thousands of unemployed people volunteering and training opportunities through youth charity The Prince’s Trust to help people get the skills and experience they need to appeal to employers. Young benefits claimants will also be able to go on two months’ work experience to get in shape for work. This reinforces our views expressed yesterday that our problems are deep set as seen by the appalling fall out figures from apprenticeships – we have lost the will to work and to take responsibility for our own actions
However, Mr Grayling said skills shortages still plagued the UK and said employers would always need to rely on migrant workers to plug gaps – a clear sign that the nation’s education system would never catch up fully to meet business demand.
He said: “In some industries there are a specialist shortage of skills. We’ve been very clear in our policies on migrant workers we’re not going to close the doors. We’re not saying that nobody will come to the UK to fill skills gaps and in some cases employers will need to recruit overseas.” Recruiters echoed those words, Polish workers continue to come to the UK to fill roles in the care sector and engineering and trade skills like CNC operators, welders and fabricators remain in strong demand.
To develop home-grown skills, Mr Grayling is calling on universities to “look much more practically at what we do need in the country and cater for that”. He said: “If we have a shortage of engineers or technicians in a particular area, I want to see colleges catering for that.” It needs to go much further than this with kids that are more vocationally suited being streamed into skills related roles. No everybody needs or should go to university it is an obsession our society needs to overcome.
But are the measures radical enough? Business groups have already warned the Coalition’s employment law “reform” will make little difference to their ability to hire staff. With eyes looking ahead to the March Budget, the pressure is on the Government to unveil far more innovative ideas for growth and job creation than are currently in the pot.
Above all we have to start taking responsibility we elected the politicians who drove our education system away from basic skills and has limited accountability. We have created the skills vacuum where many of our kids leave “education” lacking social and practical skills and are unemployable. We then even let Apprentices drop out because they don’t like the long hours, getting up on Monday morning or wearing unfashionable safety gear. As far as we know they can then go back to bed and sponge off our over indulgent welfare system.
The world has gone mad. It is time from strong government action.
Author: Chris Slay
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