At a time when many of us have children getting vitally important exam results, we all think about what kind of world of work they’ll be entering.
For my generation, when only ten per cent of school leavers went to university, it all seemed really simple. We tended to assume it would all be fine, and by and large it was.
For this generation it’s very different. It’s much more competitive. We see the effects of this competition here in Horsham, with the sad decision by Novartis recently to end decades of research and development by moving the activity to locations overseas.
The world itself is much more competitive. Many more countries have opened up their economies, including China and India, between them accounting for nearly half the world’s population! So young people need skills, qualifications and the aptitude for work more than ever before.
The worst statistic for years has been the number of young people not in employment, education or training. NEETs, as they are inelegantly described. It’s still far too high.
But happily it’s now falling. It has fallen across the country from 1.139 million in the first quarter of 2010 to 955,000 in the second quarter of this year. In the South East, where the number was relatively low to begin with, it’s fallen by 6,000, or 5.3 per cent. In some parts of the country it’s been even more dramatic. In the East Midlands, for example, it’s fallen by 22.5 per cent.
These sound like dry statistics, but everyone of these is a young life transformed, with hope replacing despair, purpose replacing drift, motivation replacing demoralisation.
It’s heartbreaking to hear of young people who simply can’t get the start they need. I think apprenticeships will have an increasing part to play. More and more young people, are taking them up, over 800,000 at the last count. These can even be an alternative route to a degree.
In the Civil Service we’ve set up a Fast Track Apprenticeship scheme. I’ve met a number of them.
Sparky, motivated and smart, they’re enjoying the fact that while their school friends will end up with student loans to pay back, they may get a degree with no debt, having been paid throughout. Neither route is better or worse than the other.
But the key is opening up more opportunities for more young people to get a great start to their working lives.
We’re lucky in Horsham. We have great schools, and most young people have a terrific start. Last month there we’re 115 young people unemployed.
I wish them all good fortune as each one finds the right answer for their own future.