THE BLOG

George Osborne Has Acted on Youth Unemployment - And Should Be Congratulated

06/12/2013 11:20 GMT | Updated 04/02/2014 10:59 GMT

George Osborne has delivered. He has scrapped employer National Insurance contributions for 1.5million people under the age of 21.

This burdensome tax on jobs is entirely counter-productive. But now there is a huge incentive for businesses to hire members of the younger generation - an incentive that carries with it a vital importance considering nearly one million young people currently find themselves in the dole queues.

I am immensely proud that we have managed to persuade policy makers of the benefits of measures such as this one announced in Thursday's Autumn Statement, benefits for young people, businesses, the Treasury and society at large.

Thanks must go to all those who have been campaigning with us, not least Lottie Dexter at the Million Jobs campaign who has led from the front with her manifesto to tackle youth employment.

On a separate policy announcement in the Autumn Statement, Pera Training fully supports evolving apprenticeship programmes to become much more 'employer led' and we look forward to the technical consultation with respect to how employers will receive direct funding via HMRC.

We would like to see measures introduced to ensure that quality levels are maintained and the move does not disadvantage the learner through cost and not quality-based competition being unwittingly introduced into the sector.

The Chancellor should be congratulated for helping to create a framework that has allowed the doubling of the number of apprenticeships since the last election and for also providing the funds for another 20,000 higher apprenticeship places.

Top-level work-based learning has the potential to reinvigorate the British economy. And it's a crucial component to a future set of education policies that must consign a "university or bust" approach to the history books.

There remains a long way to go for this to become a reality though. Apprenticeships amazingly are still perceived as second-rate by some. And university education remains the priority, signified even today by Mr Osborne's provision of a further 30,000 degree places and the abolition of the student numbers cap.

The fact is that university is not for everyone. It is not even for 50% of the population - a target that Tony Blair so wrongly sought to meet while in office.

The Chancellor rightly said that "education underpins opportunity - it is business that provides these opportunities". It is a shame then that the establishment continues to plough on with the "degrees are everything" narrative when the economy simply can't match even the current demand for graduate jobs.

That aside, it was a job well done today from the Treasury. A skilled workforce and avoiding a lost generation need to be central pillars up to and beyond 2015.

George Osborne seems to have recognised this and is heading in the right direction.