Clegg meets NEETS to launch fund

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DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg tried his hand at joinery yesterday as visited a Yorkshire training centre to announce a £126m fund to help youngsters struggling to find work in the recession.

Speaking at the headquarters of Full Circle Learning in Rotherham, Mr Clegg said he hoped young people who had left school without qualifications would be “given hope” by the scheme.

The cash is aimed at reducing the number of 16 and 17-year-olds who are not in employment, education or training, and are in Government jargon are referred to as NEETS.

Mr Clegg talked to young people who are just about to start courses, as well as those who are learning skills to work with Morrison, the contractor for council house repairs in Leeds.

He said the cash would be shared out across the country with training providers being “paid by results” when young people on courses got a job or were accepted on an apprenticeship.

it is estimated that 7,110, or 6.1 per cent, of people aged 16 and 17 in Yorkshire are NEET, the second highest in the country behind the North East, something which Mr Clegg said must be tackled.

He added: “Youth unemployment has been rising since 2004 and it was going up even in the good times. Previous schemes were well intentioned but they only provided a stop gap solution.

“What we are saying to organisations such as this is we will pay you if you can show us that you are going to get these young people onto a path that will get them to work.

“Youth unemployment has been rising since 2004, it was going up even in the good times and previous schemes, while well-intentioned, have only provided a stop-gap solution.

“Labour’s future jobs fund was a good scheme but it fell down because it only gave youngsters a short-term fix, but this scheme will lead to jobs that last.”

The Deputy Prime Minister said training organisations would receive an initial payment for taking young people on, but would only receive subsequent payments when they show progress.

Firms stand to make £2,200 for every young person that they help, but Mr Clegg said the full amount would only be payable if a young person is still in full-time education, training, or work with training six months after being taken on.

He also said that problems with providers like Sheffield-based A4E, which has been hit by a series of scandals surrounding its effectiveness, would be avoided by “payment by results” adding: “With A4E almost no questions were asked. Here providers will not be paid until they can show real success.”

Mr Clegg rejected suggestions that there were no jobs for trainees to take because firms were not recruiting because of the economic downturn.

He said: “I don’t think that’s right. I was talking to a group of business owners just last night and they are very, very keen to recruit apprentices.”

Sophie McConaghy, was the joinery student who allowed the Deputy Prime Minister loose on her work, and said she “felt a bit more confident” in the future having met Mr Clegg.

The 17-year-old, from Maltby, Rotherham, who has an interview next week for an apprenticeship with Morrison which would pay £215 a week, said: “I’m glad to see politicians getting an idea of what its like for us.”

Nick Ward, 18, from Rawmarsh, said he had left his local comprehensive school with “a couple of GCSE’s” but was not interested in academic subjects.

He added: “I think there should be more importance put on subjects like joinery and skills for people like me who want to work in these kinds of jobs.”