CHARLIE MULLINS: The kids aren't alrite with Nick Clegg's NEET scheme

The deputy PM better hope he never ends up next to the Pimlico Plumbers chief at a dinner party. Charlie Mullins reckons his new NEET scheme is a messy fiasco. And he's not pulling his punches...

by Charlie Mullins

It’s sad to say, but the Deputy Prime Minister’s £126m NEET training scheme is a non-starter. It seems to be designed to only help training providers and not unemployed young people or even businesses.

On Tuesday, Nick Clegg announced new funding for charities and private sector organisations to provide 55,000 young people with skills training and related services. While his intentions are good, this is the wrong way to go about training kids. It just looks like a collective call from private training providers for additional funding has been answered!

I do wish he’d asked someone other than these organisations how to do it. He might as well have quizzed a load of turkeys about abolishing Christmas for all the honesty and balanced views he'll have got! The money will disappear into a bureaucratic black hole rather than directly benefiting young people and employers.  

It’s all very well for charities and other organisations to be able to tap into this funding, but employers have to be the ultimate beneficiaries. My experience of training providers has been nothing short of disastrous...

I ran a community project in Streatham, South London last year to help unemployed young people gain skills that would help them get jobs in the future. We involved a training provider, firstly to help organise accreditation for the training we offered, but secondly to give kids they were working with the opportunity for some real-life experience using practical skills to refurbish a community centre. What started as a group of 15 kids quickly dwindled down to two or three. I had to get on the phone and fire a rocket up them to get numbers up to seven or eight trainees.

This gave us a huge problem because the project's concept was supposed to be my guys teaching the young trainees work skills! This went on for the duration of the project, and without the regular, and increasingly angry and frustrated calls, our tutors would have outnumbered the training provider’s kids every day of the project.

At best they didn't cover themselves in glory, at worst I feel they were ripping off the tax-payer. They were being paid to provide these kids training opportunities. It’s experiences like this that make me believe it’s time to cut out the middle man and go straight to employer.

I know the money is available for companies too, but what business trying to make a quid is likely to have the time and resources available to ‘bid’ for contracts to train 16 and 17-year-olds, and only get paid after a year? We’re drowning in red tape as it is, we don’t need more - especially when it involves businesses doing a good deed for society. 

The only way to make this scheme work is give money direct to employers so young people can earn while they learn. Without direct employer involvement these teenagers will not gain the relevant skills and experiences required to improve their employment prospects.

Quite simply, if these kids don’t have the right skills and aptitudes they are no use to businesses whatever government-inspired courses they go through. The money needs to be given to businesses that can train these young people and pay them at the same time like an introductory-apprenticeship. It is essentially the same idea as my proposal to turn Job Seeker’s Allowance into a Job Achiever’s Incentive, which would be paid to employers to part-fund apprentices on minimum wage.

Again, not rocket science, but further proof that if you ask an employer operating in the real world, you get a solution that solves the problem at hand.

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