Employers say unemployed youth do not want to work hard
The success of plans to get Britain's jobless population back to work will hinge on reaching those people who have never worked, an employment expert has said.
David Coats, of the Work Foundation, said the fact that the government recognising that it has to invest in adult learning is a major step in the right direction towards preparing the workforce for the demands of the future.
"But there is a real question about whether they will reach the people who have been left behind," he said.
Mr Coats said that some unemployed people are classified as "workless households" and do not fall within the official job-seeking statistics.
As part of the promise by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to create "British jobs for British people", Skills Secretary John Denham says the government will fund more training spaces in agencies and businesses.
This is aimed at boosting basic skills and training and increase apprenticeships.
Officially, UK-wide there are 3.04m workless households - many of which are families where the parents have never worked and are on benefits.
"Since 1997, we have had record job creation and unemployment falling but the number of workless households has not fallen," Mr Coats said, adding that those people lack the basic social skills required in the workplace.
"It's not that these people are chronically lazy or work-shy, they don't possess the soft skills they need to get on at work," Mr Coats said.
He said there was a lack of self-confidence in some households where no one has worked for two or three generations.
Jane Kamara, who works with disadvantaged young people in the Croydon area, said concentrating on youth unemployment is critical because for many at-risk young people, their first years of living alone will determine the path they take for a lifetime.
She said the reasons why so many young people are out of work are rooted in social and family issues and a school system that let them slip through, leaving them far from "job ready" when they come to her agency.
"They need social skills and to have their self-confidence built before we can even begin to train them for jobs," she said, adding that consistency in both programmes and funding is essential for success.
But others say the willingness of the unemployed to do the jobs on offer is key to addressing long-term unemployment.
Most of those interviewed focused their criticisms on the so-called NEETs - young people who are not in education, employment or training - of which there are an estimated 206,000 in England alone.
Mark Rye, the UK operations manager for DKM Labour solutions in Nottingham, said potential English recruits to the jobs he has on offer are unwilling to work for minimum wage, saying it is not enough for them to live on.
"If a Polish person can live on minimum wage, I don't see why an English person can't," he said, adding that many of the Polish workers placed by his firm send money back home, leaving them with even less to live on in England.
RECENT EMPLOYMENT FACTS
The unemployment rate in the UK is 5.4%, down 0.2% from a year ago
824,800 jobless claims were made, down 130,300 from a year ago
29.22m people work in Britain, a record high
Source: Office for National Statistics for three months up to Sept 2007
Chris Payne, who runs a small engineering firm in Gloucestershire, said his firm's recent attempts at training young apprentices have run up against a lax work ethic.
"It's attitude that is the problem. Anything that requires effort doesn't seem to be of any interest," he said.
Mr Payne said he thinks the government should concentrate on retraining people who are in their mid-20s and beyond and have achieved the maturity necessary to put in the work.
Kevin Martin from Llandrindod Wells in Wales said he is the perfect candidate for a skills improvement programme.
At 24, Mr Martin said he was a poor student who left school at 17 and drifted around a string of poorly paid jobs before his current position as a shop assistant.
With government help, he wants to return to school part time to get the A-level required to begin university studies.
"I had family issues and I just didn't knuckle down then but now I know what I want and that I want to progress in life," said Mr Martin, who welcomes the latest government initiative.