HC Deb 13 April 1976 vol 909 cc1128-9
9. Mr. Kilroy-Silk

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the employment prospects of those school leavers currently unemployed in obtaining jobs before the end of the year.

Mr. John Fraser

It is too early for firm predictions, but there has been a recent increase in the number of jobs available for young people and I hope that this trend will continue. However, there is no cause for complacency, and the Government's anti-unemployment measures are kept under continuous review.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Is my hon. Friend aware that, welcome and important as the Government's measures have been, there are still too many school leavers unemployed? There are nearly 2,500 unemployed on Mersey side and 251 in Kirkby, in my constituency. In many ways the damage to their confidence and morale is even more destructive than that which applies to adult workers. Will my hon. Friend give the House an assurance that he will take action now to ensure that those school children who leave school this summer will find employment?

Mr. Fraser

I fully agree with my hon. Friend that unemployment for young people and school leavers is particularly corrosive. That is why the Government have paid so much attention to matters such as the expansion of training, the job creation scheme—geared particularly for young people—community industry, which is operating, I think, in my hon. Friend's constituency, and the recruitment subsidy for school leavers. These matters will be kept under review. It looks as though there are signs of improvement in the situation, but we shall keep the matter under constant review.

Mr. Bulmer

Does the Minister accept that there is still an insufficient level of understanding between those in education and those in industry of what it is reasonable to require of each other in preparing young people for employment? Has the Minister any steps in mind to improve the situation?

Mr. Fraser

It is quite right to say that far too many young people are leaving school without very high educational qualifications. There is a great lack of vocational training for about 300,000 children who leave school each year. The Government intend to make a statement shortly about new arrangements for vocational preparation for these young people.

Mr. Atkinson

Will my hon. Friend recognise, however, that much of the problem lies with his own Department? That is for the simple reason that the number of apprenticeships in skilled training is now decreasing yearly and is running at an all-time low record, because the other side of his Department, for good reasons, is now training adult men for skills that are normally provided by apprentice training organised by employers. Employers now recognise that it is far cheaper to take someone from an adult training centre rather than themselves providing facilities for education and the skill training of young people.

Mr. Fraser

I do not agree that there is a contradiction there. The number of training places has been increased considerably, in terms of both apprenticeship and skillcentre training. One of the problems that we face frequently is not a surplus but a shortage of skilled craftsmen. We are right to continue the thrust on both fronts.