Page last updated at 09:10 GMT, Wednesday, 9 July 2008 10:10 UK

Job shortage for unskilled youths

Teenagers
Unemployment is a growing problem for poorly-qualified teenagers

Youngsters leaving school in the United Kingdom without qualifications face increasing hardships in the jobs market, says an international study.

A report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development shows worsening conditions for poorly-qualified 16 to 24 year olds.

Youth unemployment has risen from 11% to 14% since 2002, says the report.

Only 45% of low-skilled youths in the UK have found jobs a year after leaving school, says the report.

The report, Jobs for Youth: United Kingdom, shows that there has been a substantial decline in long-term youth unemployment - down from 23% to 16% since 1997.

Divided jobs market

But it warns that this trend has been reversed in the past few years, with particular pressure on those leaving school without adequate qualifications - as it highlights a polarised jobs market.

Young people in the UK who leave with good qualifications "fare better" in employment than their international counterparts, says the OECD.

For those who achieve the benchmark of five good GCSEs, the report says that 67% will have a job a year after they leave school.

But for those who leave education and training with poor qualifications and low skills, there is an increasingly tough outlook. Only 45% who do not achieve this level will have jobs - with their prospects looking even "less rosy" in the years ahead.

This reflects the changes in the economy, with opportunities being created in the high-skills sector, while unskilled jobs are in decline.

For youngsters leaving school without qualifications this means a "high risk of poor labour market outcomes and social exclusion".

The report says that the number of youngsters not in education or training is 13% - above the OECD average and higher than the 11.6% figure for 1997.

Even for those who are helped by youth employment schemes, the report highlights a "difficult" group trapped in a cycle of failure, alternating between "short employment spells" and "benefit dependency".

Improving

The report endorses the Westminster government's plans to tackle youth unemployment, including the introduction of the Diploma qualification in England and its emphasis on workplace skills.

It also supports a more flexible, individual approach to resolving long-term youth unemployment.

From 2015, the government is also set to raise the school and training leaving age in England to the age of 18.

A government spokesperson said: "The picture for young people in employment, training and education in this country is improving but more needs to be done.

"We welcome the fact that the OECD recognises much of the gains made, including the considerable improvements in youth employment. We have seen youth claimant unemployment amongst 18 to 24 year olds fall since 1997 with long-term claimants (over 1 year) down by over 90%.

"But we must go further. At a time when there are over 678,000 vacancies in the economy there are jobs available.

"But many are skilled jobs and that is precisely why we are pressing ahead with some of the biggest reforms to education in a generation: raising the participation age to 18; expanding apprenticeships; introducing Diplomas; and ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to get the training they need to get on at work."

Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, David Willetts said: "This is a devastating critique of a decade of failure. In 1997 Labour promised a new deal for young people.

"We have two nations in skills. Highly-qualified young people do relatively well. But fewer than half of young people without qualifications have a job twelve months after leaving school. Tackling this means more real apprenticeships and more good schools."




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