A coalition of 35 youth charities warned in a report published in June that thousands of school leavers this summer will not get a job or a place on a training scheme, because the government’s guarantee of a training place for all unemployed 16 and 17 year olds is not being met. Published by Youthaid and The Children’s Society on behalf of the coalition, the report A Broken promise – the failure of youth training policy says the government should restore benefits to all 16/17 year olds without a YT place and increase the places available. The coalition believes the problem goes beyond simply the number of places available, the poor quality of training on offer also being a factor.
Just days before the TEC annual conference in Birmingham (July 9-10), Gillian Shephard MP, the Employment Secretary, restated the government’s guarantee to offer a suitable place on Youth Training to every young person who wants one. She promised contracts for sufficient places and monitoring arrangements to detect shortfalls. Contact Youthaid on 071 737 8068 and DEmp on 071 273 6969.
Figures extracted from government statistics and published on July 7 by the Unemployment Unit, an independent research and campaigning organisation, show that two-thirds of people leaving Employment Training fail to get a job or qualifications. The numbers getting a job is down on a similar survey six months earlier, although the numbers getting a qualification are slightly increased. In March 1992, 149,000 people were on ET, a drop of 60,000 over the previous year. A Department of Employment review, currently under way, is expected to recommend the amalgamation of ET with Employment Action, the temporary work scheme launched last year. Contact Paul Convery on 071 737 8001.
The national charity which helps ex-offenders, Apex Trust, confirmed its recovery from financial difficulties which put it into administration earlier this year. An appeal raised over £300,000 much from the private sector and the appointment of a new Chief Executive, Judith Kidd, a former civil servant, was announced on June 24 at a reception hosted by Sedgwick. Over two years Apex has cut the number of training places on offer from 1,800 to 650 and reduced staff from 225 to 55 today. Contact Andrew McCall, Apex, on 071 481 4831.
The Rathbone Society, the Manchester-based charity which helps people with learning difficulties, released in July its evidence to House of Commons’ Employment Select Committee. It warns that those training the most able can make huge profits, while those training the most disadvantaged and the less able experience financial penalties. The rules on unauthorised absence are particularly harsh, they argue, and say that many TECs share their concerns. Contact Rathbone Society on 061 236 5358.
Community Industry’s Chief Executive, John Plummer, has warned that many contracts for special needs training places, due to start on April 1, are only just nearing completion. Payment in arrears, abatement for unauthorised absence and output related funding are all creating acute difficulties for voluntary sector providers. A national review of TEC contracts by members of the Bridge Group, a network of voluntary groups working with business, will be published in September. Contact JOhn Plummer on 051 495 2114.
Partially in response to criticism, the G10 group of TEC chairs which represent the 82 TECs and 22 LECs, announced on July 8 that a Special Needs Group would be formed and chaired by Lord Stockton. Membership is to be drawn from G10, several charities, TEC chief executives and various government departments. The objectives are to develop the quality and volume of special needs training and to improve communication. Contact Nigel Chilcott or Hattie Ward Jones, TEC Secretariat, on 0527 550955.
The Royal National Institute for the Blind teamed up with the Prince’s Youth Business Trust on July 6 to announce a joint scheme to assist visually impaired young people in setting up their own businesses. The upper age limit for access to PYBT’s grant scheme has also been increased to 30 years (from 25) for visually impaired people. Contact Beryl Morton, RNIB, on 071 388 1266.
In June Business in the Community announced that it was ceasing to act as the national umbrella organisation for the 300 local enterprise agencies. BITC recognises it is not an expert in small business matters and believes it can best fulfill its mission and contribute to local economic development by stimulating the private sector to get involved in a range of organisations, not just LEAs. The advent of TECs in particular has widened the scope for partnership in economic development.
A group of 18 LEAs mainly in the East Midlands and parts of East Anglia met in mid-June to establish the Association of Local Enterprise Agencies. It remains to be seen whether other LEAs will join and so form a national group to lobby and provide central services like training, or whether a new organisation will be formed in the autumn. Contact Paul Chaplin, BITC, on 071 253 3716.
TECs came under further criticism in June, when the Federation of Small Businesses published figures showing only nine TECs had a good spread of Board members from the small firms sector. 63 of the 82 TECs took part in their survey. According to the Federation, 97% of all businesses employ fewer than 20 people. Contact FSB on 071 9289272.
President of the Board of Trade, Michael Heseltine MP, used the TEC’s annual conference in July to announce a pilot scheme of 15 “first stop shops” to offer advice to businesses. The eventual aim is for a network of some 200, bringing together the small business responsibilities of the DTI and the Employment Department. Unofficially the move is being interpreted as part of a wider battle between the two departments for control over the complicated patchwork of provision for training and business support services. Contact DTI on 071 215 5000.
A package of support for enterprise was announced by BT in July. The East Durham Task Force is to receive £52,000 to help fund a business and technology centre with telecoms and other office equipment for use by new small businesses. The St Rollox Training Project in Glasgow will get £80,000 over two years for capital equipment, in a partnership venture with the Glasgow North Initiative. Finally a further grant of £32,500 is being made to support employment opportunities for people with a mental illness in Hackney. Contact Richard Redden, BT, on 071 356 5385.
Consider the situation. Britain is in the depths of the longest recession since the war. Every job created or saved, every worker trained or retrained, every new business started, is precious. Meanwhile the agencies there to help appear in turmoil.
Gillian Shephard explicitly warned the TECs at their Birmingham meeting that funding was under threat, while the Labour Party issued figures showing training budgets had been cut by £600 million since 1989/90 and spending on YT and ET down 45% in real terms since 1988. A power struggle is underway between the DTI and DEmp over who is responsible for small businesses and training, leaving TECs, LEAs and Chambers of Commerce bewildered. The future organisation of LEAs themselves is up for grabs. At the same time, the crisis in special needs training, highlighted in previous editions of Community Affairs Briefing, shows no sign of abating even after the formation of the G10 working group.
Company executives and community affairs managers who devoted considerable time and resources to enterprise issues during the 1980s, particularly in setting up TECs, could be excused for wondering whether it is worth it. Watch the rate of resignations from TEC Boards in the next twelve months.
Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 5 – June, 1992