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Work it, Work it!

This week David Cameron said that if his party were to win the next general election he would aim to abolish youth unemployment. Ambitious, but is it achievable? Mr Cameron wants to cut the maximum amount of benefits a household can claim per year from £26,000 to £23,000. This extra money will be used to fund three million apprenticeships over five years. There are currently 1.09 million under 25s who are not in employment, education or training.

Unemployment benefits for those between 18 and 21 years old would be scrapped and replaced with a ‘Youth Allowance’. This would be set at the same amount as Job Seekers Allowance for 16 to 24 year olds, which is currently £57.35 per week.

18 to 21 year olds will be able to claim benefits for a maximum of six months. After this, benefits will be stopped. Individuals will have to take an apprenticeship, a traineeship or do community work such as cleaning local parks, to earn their benefits.

The Conservatives want to stop the culture of dependency, putting an end to the idea that when we leave school, we leave home, and it is okay to claim unemployment benefits and claim housing benefits, instead of going out to work for a living.

This week National Minimum Wage increased. 18 to 20 year olds are entitled to a minimum of £5.13 per hour. A person of that age would only need to work 12 hour per week to earn more than if he were claiming Job Seekers Allowance. For over 20s National Minimum Wage increased to £6.50 per hour, meaning an individual would only need to work nine hours per week to earn the same as when claiming Job Seekers Allowance.

Last month the directors of Mars and Nestle, Morrison’s, and Sainsbury’s met with David Cameron to discuss the need for 137,000 new employees on their sites by 2017, while a number of industries say they do not have the skilled workers needed for the jobs available. With a variety of different positions to be filled across the country, it gives plenty of opportunity for young people to find a suitable role. With Cameron’s promise to help fund apprenticeships, industries will be able to train workers to learn the skills needed for the role and young people will be able to develop specialist skills to help find a career that suits them.

One wonders if such schemes will be challenged as a breach of human rights. Cait Reilly a geology graduate from Birmingham challenged having to work for “free” (she got her benefits!) at a Poundland store, and for an unemployed HGV driver Jamieson Wilson, from Nottingham, who objected to doing unpaid work cleaning furniture and as a result was stripped of his jobseeker's allowance for six months. The Court of Appeal found the scheme unlawful and the Government was obliged to push through emergency regulations to enable the schemes to continue and to block any attempt to claw back lost benefits.

We offer a number of free workshops with young people in schools called Build and Fly your own Rocket which helps students understand working life and how to go about finding the right job and how to meet employers’ requirements (that is the easiest way to get a keep a job – give the employer what it wants!). We ask them might like to do when leaving school, we then go on to discuss what skills are needed to do that job. We then talk about how to apply for a job, how to get through an interview and how to progress in a role. By doing this we hope to give young people will go on to develop skills need for the job they want, and help build confidence to get through an interview.

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

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