BUSINESS leaders across Yorkshire are warning of the “worrying” impact of spiralling youth unemployment in the region and say a new focus on skills training for youngsters is now required to halt the slide.
With an estimated 100,000 young people out of work across Yorkshire – more than 50,000 of them on jobseekers allowance (JSA) – politicians believe the situation is approaching crisis point.
Mark Goldstone, head of policy at the Leeds, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said a generation of long-term unemployed young people would have stark implications for the wider regional economy.
“The effects of a ‘lost generation’ is a worry for the chamber – lack of aspiration and hope will only lead to greater social imbalances in the future,” he said.
“At a time when we need to be taking advantage of global opportunities, we must give employers confidence to invest in their future workforce.”
With many business across Yorkshire insisting they are keen to recruit despite the recession, Mr Goldstone said it is crucial young people are in a position to take up the jobs available. “I speak to many companies who are actively planning for the future, so equipping young people for the world of work should be a key priority,” he said.
“Businesses tell us employability skills remain an issue and are keen to see better team working, communication and problem solving skills developed in all schools.”
Some of the worst-affected parts of the region are found across the Humber area, with Hull, North Lincolnshire and Grimsby all witnessing soaring numbers of young people out of work.
Lord Haskins, chairman of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), agreed that skills shortages are a key issue. “Youth unemployment is the most serious problem that the LEP has,” he said. “The most important role we’ve got at the moment is to tackle this skills problem.
“Large employers are expressing concerns about skills shortages – everywhere we go there is a gigantic mismatch between the jobs that are there, and the people who are available to do them.“
Lord Haskins highlighted IT and advanced manufacturing and engineering as key areas where businesses struggle to recruit.
“The single reason Germany leads the world is that it tackled the problems of skills training for young people far better than almost anywhere else,” he said.
However, Labour MPs say no amount of training programmes will solve the crisis if there are simply not enough jobs to go round.
“Long-term youth unemployment has risen by 209 per cent in Hull North in the past year, and there are over 40 people chasing each job,” said Hull North MP Diana Johnson.
“You cannot have proper welfare reform if the job and training opportunities are simply not there in sufficient numbers in places such as Hull.”
In Doncaster, where nearly one in seven young people are currently on the dole, English Democrat Mayor Peter Davies said driving economic growth will be key to tackling the “unacceptable” number of 18 to 24-year-olds classed as not in education, employment or training (Neet).
He said: “We are doing all that we can to turn round our unacceptable situation regarding Neets and tackle the problem vigorously. I have made improving Doncaster’s economy my main priority.”
Mayor Davies said regeneration projects such as White Rose Way offer the best long-term solution.
“These schemes will create thousands of private sector jobs and skill sets that young people will be able to tap into and take advantage of,” he said.