Lisa Nandy MP: it is vital ​to get our young people working or learning

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​The number of young people across the North West trapped out of work, education or training is at its highest level in years – at huge cost to a generation who are aspirational for their futures, to businesses who need their talents, and to taxpayers facing a spiralling benefits bill.

​The Office for National Statistics estimate that there are over 850,000 young people in the UK who are not in employment, education or training (commonly referred to as NEET).

This number has risen by 20,000 since 2022 and now accounts for almost one in eight of all 16 to 24-year-olds.

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Post-Covid there has been a significant increase in the number of young people in Wigan who are “NEET” but also not ready to join the workforce due to additional barriers such as anxiety and mental health challenges. Nationally, around 225,000 young people are now workless due to ill health. In the North West the number of young people out of work for that reason has hit 30,400, the highest of any region in the UK and up 20% since 2019-2020.

Wigan MP Lisa NandyWigan MP Lisa Nandy
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy

This is a scandalous waste of potential and risks young people facing a life on the margins. Time spent like this can have a detrimental effect on physical and mental health and increase the likelihood of unemployment, low wages or low quality of work later in life.

It’s bad for the economy too – with almost a million vacancies we need to help our young people get into good jobs.

Locally, Wigan Council has recognised the problem and has secured £440,000 via the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to tackle the barriers to young people moving onto further education, training or employment.

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One measure being used is to give employers incentives of up to £5,000 to top up pay for local apprentices who often struggle on low wages while learning.

Labour have also announced new measures to keep young people on track and support them into employment.

Our plan includes providing high quality careers advice and proper work experience in every school, training 1,000 new careers advisors. We’ll tackle one of the root causes of young people being out of the workplace - poor mental health.

Every young person will have access to a specialist mental health professional at school, helping to intervene early before problems take hold.

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For young people out of work we will transform the youth employment support system. We’ll create “Young Future” hubs in every area to bring services for young people together.

Employment advisors will be based in each hub alongside sign posting to employability programmes and access to mental health support.

If you leave school needing further training, we’ll provide better opportunities for developing skills by turning the Tories’ failed apprenticeships levy into a ‘Growth and Skills Levy’ and establishing new Technical Excellence Colleges to help meet the skills needs of local businesses and communities.

Labour’s goal is to have every young person earning or learning. We will break down the barriers to employment, end the crisis in young people’s mental health and improve skills and training so all young people have the chance to reach their full potential.