Unemployment set to become ‘way of life’ for Sunderland youngsters

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UNEMPLOYMENT is set to become a normal way of life for young school leavers in the North East, research warns.

During the last five years, the percentage of teenagers without work claiming Jobseekers Allowance has risen to 8.6 per cent in the region, the highest in the UK.

As thousands of youngsters pick up their GCSE results tomorrow, ministers have been told they must act to tackle record teenage benefit claims.

Financial education firm, Ambitious Minds, said the North East has had a rise in youth unemployment that is twice as large as those in London and the South East.

Ted Salmon, North East chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “Youth unemployment in the North East is one of the biggest challenges our region faces.

“Given the current confidence in the economy, 80 per cent of our members have reported that they aren’t looking to take on more staff.

“Alongside this, many of our members still feel that some school leavers don’t have the right skills to join their business and aren’t work ready.”

He said the FSB is trying to tackle the situation by working more closely with schools.

Chief executive of Ambitious Minds Sean McGuire, said: “We can see in these statistics a situation in which a permanently-high level of youth unemployment becomes normalised. We must fight against that. It is a really dangerous situation.

“Across the North East there has been a 3.5 per cent increase since 2007 in young people claiming jobseekers allowance.

“Once these stats sit around for a while, you would be amazed how quickly they become normalised, that people just assume there will always be large youth unemployment”.

Ross Smith, director of policy for the North East Chamber of Commerce, said: “It is important young people are aware of the vocational training opportunities that are available with increasing numbers recognising that apprenticeships offer an excellent entry point into full-time employment.”

The Government reacted to the figures by pointing to the recent small reduction in joblessness among young people.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “Last month’s figures showed a fall in youth unemployment and there are fewer young people on Jobseekers Allowance or other temporary support than in May 2010.

“Over the next three years, the Youth Contract will offer nearly 500,000 opportunities for young people through work experience, apprenticeships and wage subsidies to help them find work.”

Twitter: @sunechoschools