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Where Is the Invisible Sun for NEETs During Austerity?

27/06/2013 16:24 BST | Updated 26/08/2013 10:12 BST

There has to be an invisible sun that gives us hope when the whole day's done

The lyrics above are taken from the 1981 Police single Invisible Sun and written about the conflict in Northern Ireland which at that time seemed interminable.

Northern Ireland was back then a place where sectarian division coupled with lack of opportunity for young people created a noxious environment.

As we know only too well, in that conflict there were thousands of innocent casualties. Indeed, we are told that in any conflict or war casualties are inevitable.

And in the coalition's war on expenditure there are many who are finding austerity increasingly tough to cope with. For those on incomes that have not risen in line with inflation there is the challenge of finding sufficient money to cover bills.

This includes the old and unemployed and those who are poorly paid.

The fact that there are so called 'payday' and short-term lenders offering loans at APRs measured in thousands of per cent is telling.

This suggests that there is an increasing sense of desperation and hopelessness and there is no doubt that being unemployed is a really tough experience at any stage in life but most especially when you are starting out in life.

Apparently there are over a million young people in this country who are usually referred to as 'NEETs' - those not in education, employment or training.

This group has been identified as being a major concern by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) which carries out international research in a number of countries.

Their latest report Education at a Glance 2013, demonstrates that young people who are 'NEETS', who they define as being between 15 and 29 years old, can expect to be unemployed of 2.3 years.

Even though we have one of the highest graduation rates in the developed world, we have a disproportionately high number of young people who end up with no qualifications or experience in work; only young people in Japan and Spain being in a worse position.

George Osborne's statement on spending review stressed that those with the broadest shoulders should take the greatest burden.

The chancellor stated that he wants to see more money going into apprenticeships though this depends on savings in the Department of Business and there were no specifics.

Continuing austerity is creating a timebomb of social inequity and division among young people which will scar them for life.

Many commentators are saying precisely this.

For example, Sir Peter Lampl who is chair of the Education Endowment Foundation believe that there is an economic and social cost to having such a large number of young people who, he argues, become 'unemployable' and is a 'shaming testimony.'

The CBI also back the view that when we have an apparent skills crisis it is difficult to understand why we don't invest in training and educating young people in developing their ability to carry out tasks that are essential to our economic recovery.

In the past this was a function that was carried out at local level by technical colleges which operated under the aegis of local authorities but in partnership with employers in the area.

The onslaught on local authority spending announced by the chancellor makes it clear that this situation is not going to return and though I note that there is an intention to continue to invest in technical universities it is hard to see how this will really deal with NEETs.

Indeed, much of Wednesday's spending review - especially concerning the investment in infrastructure projects - is about what will happen in the future.

Every day that goes during which young people considered to be NEETS are without employment will only add to their sense of hopelessness and further undermine their confidence and esteem.

After the conflict second-world-war programmes were introduced to produce reconstruction and improve society.

This is what is needed now; a national plan to get young people to learn skills which will really get this country back on the road to recovery.

As the OECD report Education at a Glance 2013 advocates, we should be willing to emulate those countries where there is a far greater emphasis on technical education.

It is surely no coincidence that one of the best exemplars of this, Germany, has a skilled workforce capable of producing the high quality products.

The result of being able to do this has meant that Germany's population has been less affected by austerity than we have.

Instead George Osborne tells us 'we are all in it together.'

Try telling that to those who cannot make ends meet; especially those starting their working life.

What I want to know is where is the invisible sun for those young people currently out of work in the UK?