No Forced Labour For Youth!

Young workers at the front of last Saturday’s NHSTogether march in Trafalgar Square. Youth will not submit to forced labour
Young workers at the front of last Saturday’s NHSTogether march in Trafalgar Square. Youth will not submit to forced labour

Education Secretary Ed Balls yesterday announced plans to compel all 16-18 youth to take part in full-time education or training by 2013.

The government plans for large numbers of youth to be coerced into working for nothing on schemes dressed up as ‘modern apprenticeships’.

Teaching union NASUWT yesterday gave the lie to the government’s ‘training’ pledge.

It said: ‘Plans will stand or fall on improving employers’ record.’

Commenting on the government’s announcement of strategies for dealing with youngsters not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETS), Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT said: ‘The rationale for raising the leaving age to 18 is undoubtedly right, as it is clearly vital that education and training are harnessed to improve the life chances of millions of young people.

‘But, by far the greatest challenge will be to secure the co-operation of the employers to provide the quantity and quality of training opportunities required and we believe the government’s proposals will stand or fall on this issue alone.

‘UK employers’ track record to date has been unimpressive, falling far below that of their European counterparts.’

Revealing fears of a youth rebellion, she added: ‘The debate to date has, not surprisingly, focused on enforcement. This will clearly be a major challenge, particularly during the transition phase.’

In his speech as chairman of the Fabian Society yesterday, Ed Balls complained that ‘at any one time around 10 per cent of 16 and 17 year olds are not in any form of education, employment or training.’

He stressed ‘now is the time to act. Because there is a clear economic and a moral imperative to do so.’

He said the government’s planned Education and Skills Bill sets out ‘a new partnership between young people and parents, schools and colleges, local government and employers.’

He said the bill proposes: ‘full-time education, for example, at school or college; work-based learning, such as an apprenticeship; or one day a week part-time education or training, if they are employed, self-employed or volunteering more than 20 hours a week.’

He warned: ‘If young people fail to take up these opportunities, there will be a system of enforcement.’

He stressed: ‘When we say “everyone will participate”, that’s what we mean.

‘No one will be left out on the basis that it’s just not for them – or it’s too hard to meet their needs.

‘Some will need special help. But that doesn’t mean they will be exempt.

‘Teenage mothers will of course need the right provision, support and childcare.’