Finding a lost generation 'key to tackling youth unemployment epidemic'
Unemployment figures highlight the plight of our younger
But we are not alone and it's worth looking at our European
neighbours not simply to find solace but to put the problem into
context and scale.
A few key statistics: of more than 23 million unemployed in
Europe, young people aged between 15 and 24 account for five
million, twice as high as for the whole working population and
nearly three times as high as the rate for the adult active
Moreover, figures suggest that 7.3 million people in this age
group are not in employment, education or training (NEET).
More than half of all EU member states have a youth unemployment
rate worse than the average. Spain, whose youth unemployment was
always higher, stands out at nearly 50%.
Three of the five countries with a rate higher than 30% have
received EU or IMF bail-outs - Greece, Portugal and Ireland.
The best performers with rates under 10% include Austria,
Germany and the Netherlands, with the UK halfway with just over
The severity of the problem is underlined by rising long-term
youth unemployment, with, on average, 28% of under-25s out of work
for more than 12 months.
Understandably, EU leaders see youth unemployment as an epidemic
spreading across Europe.
With emphasis on austerity, they seek a growth agenda to
re-integrate young unemployed into the labour market.
Prime responsibility lies with member states, but there is much
they can learn from each other, particularly with apprenticeships
and traineeships in which Germany and Austria excel.
In the UK, ministers say they want to work with employers to
deliver an additional 100,000 apprenticeships by 2014, supported by
public funding of Â£1.4bn next year.
Many employers are investing in apprenticeships and achieving
high quality outcomes.
However, if we are to realise the goal of an expanded programme,
more employers need support.
The CBI has worked closely with Government to cut bureaucracy
for large employers.
A recent report launched by Skills Minister John Hayes
recommended reduced data collection, simplified funding, with more
risk-based audit and inspection.
There is huge potential to expand apprenticeships to smaller
firms, and greater focus on SME collaboration - or larger firms
supporting firms in their supply chain - will help.
It requires strong and courageous political leadership to make
the structural reforms that will safeguard this lost