HC Deb 15 November 1977 vol 939 cc262-4
1. Mr. Durant

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will detail the Government measures introduced to occupy unemployed school leavers whilst they are looking for work; and if he is proposing any further measures to help young people in cities.

2. Sir W. Elliott

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will detail the Government measures introduced to occupy unemployed school leavers whilst they are looking for work; and if he is proposing any further measures to help young people in cities.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Albert Booth)

Since 1975 the Government and the Manpower Services Commission have strengthened the careers service, extended community industry, provided training places and otherwise provided assistance to unemployed young people through the job creation programme, the work experience programme, the recruitment subsidy for school leavers, and the youth employment subsidy.

The Manpower Services Commission is to operate a new youth opportunities programme for unemployed young people. This will offer within an integrated framework a combination of training and work experience which can be adapted to the individual needs of young people aged 16 to 18.

Inner city areas will benefit under this and the new urban programme.

Mr. Durant

That sounds very laudable, but will the Minister say how many permanent jobs have been created by the Government's policy towards young people in particular? Is he aware of the special problems of young West Indians in my constituency, for example, who have opted out of the system altogether? Will he talk to the Commission for Racial Equality on this subject?

Mr. Booth

The principal agencies for the creation of permanent jobs are not those which I have outlined. They are to be found in industrial strategy and in the development of services. The principal aims of the programme operated by my Department and by the Manpower Services Commission for young people are to enable them to obtain jobs when they would not otherwise be able to do so.

Mr. Molloy

Will my right hon. Friend say what representations, if any, he has had from industrialists who are complaining about the standard of education of youths leaving school who apply for apprenticeships, in particular? Will he say whether he considers this to be a serious matter and, if so, will he inform the House what he intends to do about it?

Mr. Booth

I can tell my hon. Friend that it certainly is the case that a number of industrialists expect applications to come from young people who are comparatively well qualified and, in some cases, experienced. This is reducing the numbers being recruited. One of the great advantages of the schemes that are now being run by MSC and by my Department is that they provide young people with the training and experience to meet employers' requirements.

Mr. Haselhurst

In view of the need for greater genuine productivity and the demands of increased mechanisation, is the Secretary of State prepared to acknowledge that there is a need for a scheme that is more permanent and extensive than anything that he or the MSC has so far produced if any kind of meaningful occupation is to be provided for young people in the years ahead?

Mr. Booth

I am not prepared to concede that there is a need for something more permanent than anything we have considered or envisaged. Over and above the special measures to which I have just referred, we have, of course, given careful consideration to the means of funding a much longer-term skills programme.

We produced a document last year on the collective funding of transferable skills and have done further work on that. I told the House last Wednesday that I hoped, before Christmas, to be able to announce proposals to meet the longer-term need for skills.

Mr. Hardy

I welcome the helpful and wide-ranging measures that my right hon. Friend has described to the House. Does he not agree, however, that the problem is likely to be even more severe in the small towns and villages, such as those which I represent? Will he consider further encouraging young people who have no work to enter suitable training, and further ensure that the worthwhile Community Industry scheme is expanded in South Yorkshire?

Mr. Booth

I am glad to tell my hon. Friend that we have noted the important rôle that Community Industry can play. For that reason, we have expanded the scheme, in respect of both the number of people that it covers and its geographical range. However, I urge the House to consider the fact that the youth opportunities programme, which we hope very shortly to be able to sanction in its initial form, will provide training and work experience places for every unemployed youngster who wishes to be offered that opportunity. That must have a particular relevance to the sort of areas to which my hon. Friend referred.

Mr. Henderson

Has the Secretary of State any evidence to show whether experience in the job creation scheme has better equipped young people for a permanent job? Does he accept that there is a feeling that many of the jobs that have been taken have not added in any way to their skills?

Mr. Booth

I cannot present the House with exact numbers. I should like to be able to deploy my staff for a precise survey of the results of every job creation and work experience scheme. I have managed to satisfy myself that on all of the better schemes the overwhelming majority of youngsters pass from them into full-time employment. I visited a large scheme at Chatham a few weeks ago and found that every youngster who had completed it had found a permanent job, using the skill which he had learned in the course of that programme. I also visited a scheme at Carlisle last Friday and found that one problem of running the scheme was that youngsters moved into full-time jobs before they had completed their training.

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