HC Deb 23 October 1973 vol 861 cc951-3
8. Mr. Grylls

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the number of school leavers currently out of work in the United Kingdom and in the South-East of England.

13. Mr. Ewing

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many Scottish school leavers who left school at the last leaving date have been unable to find unemployment.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Dudley Smith)

On 8th October there were 5,900 school leavers registered as unemployed in the United Kingdom, including 624 in the London and South-East Region and 738 in Scotland. These statistics do not identify school leavers by term or year of leaving, but most would have left in the summer of this year.

Mr. Grylls

Does not that rather low figure happily prove that the economy is expanding fast? Could my hon. Friend tell me what improvements are being made in the careers advice and training services to help all school leavers in all parts of the country to find suitable employment?

Mr. Smith

I agree with my hon. Friend that it reveals a useful trend. Improvements are being constantly made in the careers advice service for young people. Where young people as a whole are concerned I am glad that, besides school leavers, the number registered as unemployed in the United Kingdom was 22,308, compared with 68,213 in October last year, and unfilled vacancies for young people totalled 124,129 for this month compared with 47,786 a year ago.

Mr. Ewing

Does the Minister agree that young people leaving school seem to be pushed into dead-end jobs? I can quote instances of youngsters of 16 or 17 years of age doing manual labouring jobs without any prospect of promotion and no career structure. I should be grateful if the Minister would consider this difficult problem.

Mr. Smith

I sympathise with the hon. Member. This problem has not been overlooked, as he knows, particularly in the development areas, which often present this problem. Constant efforts are being made to try to prevent as many youngsters as possible from going into dead-end jobs. There has been a considerable improvement in Scotland in this connection. It is still not good enough relative to other parts of the country, but I take the hon. Member's point and we shall continue our efforts.

Mr. Michael Shaw

Can my hon. Friend say how far the improvement is due to the raising of the school leaving age?

Mr. Smith

It is difficult to estimate the direct effect of the school leaving age on the employment situation, but I am sure the House will agree that the main reason for reduced unemployment throughout this year has been the improvement in the economy and the consequential substantial increase in job opportunities, both for young people and for adults.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the very real difficulties encountered by school leavers seeking apprenticeships in building industry trade as a result of the spread of lump labour and labour-only contracting? Will he undertake to initiate talks with employers and trade unions in the building industry about this problem?

Mr. Smith

I should be willing to look at that matter. The hon. Member probably knows that the Construction Industry Training Board is still trying to get apprenticeships and training for young people. But I am prepared to consider what the hon. Gentleman says.

Mr. Loughlin

Is it not the fact that the hon. Gentleman has before him the corresponding figures for school leavers last year and this year, and therefore he can give the difference between the number of school leavers in the two periods and demonstrate the effect on the employment situation?

Mr. Smith

I do not have those figures immediately to hand, but, as I said, the position is improving and has been improving throughout the whole of this time. The trend in the hon. Member's area, as in other parts of the country, will continue in that direction.

11. Mr. Eadie

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what steps he intends to take to assist school leavers to find employment in the development areas.

Mr. Dudley Smith

Because of the raising of the school leaving age there have been fewer school leavers this year, and with the great improvement in job opportunities most of them have obtained employment without difficulty. This improvement has also been felt in the development areas. Careers officers of the youth employment service will continue to do all they can to help those still seeking work.

Mr. Eadie

Will not the Minister accept that the wrong job for a school leaver may well scar his employment prospects for the rest of his life? Will the hon. Gentleman consider using some of the advance factories which we are told are empty in order to train some young people in work skills?

Mr. Smith

We are always open to useful suggestions, and I shall look at that. I agree that putting young persons into the wrong job may damage their future. As I said earlier, the difficulty is that there are some dead-end jobs. At least, more young people are now going into employment even in the development areas, and in Scotland the position has improved dramatically recently. Part of our job will be to try to get people into jobs with prospects, and one of the motivations behind the Manpower Services Commission, for whose establishment we provided earlier in this Session of Parliament, is aimed to that end.

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