Now Milburn calls for more apprenticeships

Social Mobility Tsar Alan Milburn
Social Mobility Tsar Alan Milburn

The latest ONS labour market statistics show large falls in youth unemployment –down 89 000 for 16-24 year olds, but still 16% and nearly three times the adult rate (  The 733 000 unemployed 16-24 year olds include 266 000 full-time students. A more accurate picture is provided by the number of 18-24 year olds not in full-time education.  Here joblessness is down by 63 000 a fall of nearly 200 000 compared to a year ago, with most of these having entered the labour force, yet unemployment for this group still stands at 12%, double the general rate.

As Alan Milburn’s latest Social Mobility Commission Report reminds us, the employment rate for young people remains below pre-recession levels with the number unemployed for over a year, almost double (  Milburn also recognises that falls in young people’s hourly rates of pay to levels recorded 15 years ago stop them making proper transitions to adulthood, consequently a quarter of 20-24 year olds still live with parents,  having  been  excluded from the housing market.  

Correctly identifying that many government efforts to improve the prospects for young workers have fallen well short of their objectives, Milburn’s report only touches on some of the longer term developments in the labour market, ‘The impact of technology and globalisation has reduced middle-skilled, well-paid jobs, whilst the demand for low-paid jobs has increased and is set to rise as current workers retire’ (p 175).

In otherwords, it’s the types of jobs as the availability of employment itself that limit chances of secure employment, let alone upward social mobility. If a third of graduates have to enter non graduate work, those less qualified are inevitably ‘bumped down’ into less skilled, lower paid employment. This situation will not be significantly altered by schools providing better careers advice or higher quality vocational education, some of the policies Milburn advocates.

Likewise, without a radically different approach to running the economy and regulating the labour market; one that challenges rather than simply attempts to adapt to global trends, Milburn’s call for half of all workplaces with ten or more employers to provide apprenticeships by 2020 will be as pie in the sky as David Cameron’s promise of another three million apprenticeships,  the day before (

New figures for 2013/14 show the overall number of apprenticeship falling and still only I in 3 started by those under 19. Many young people have neither an apprenticeship, or a university degree to fall back on.  



Letter  Patrick Ainley,  23/10/14

Download Second Edition of ‘A Great Training Robbery’  (

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