Worrying figures from earlier this week reckon that the number of new apprentices that started training in the 2011/12 academic year has slowed down and in some parts of the country gone into reverse.
Wi[th youth unemployment expected to remain at around the one million mark (that’s one in five of Brits aged 24 and under) when the figures are out tomorrow, we shouldn’t just be concerned, we should be downright scared for the future.
Last month employment rose by 181,000 – 96,000 of which are directly employed jobs, which proves that businesses have been creating vacancies.
Of course, there was some typical political figure-massaging by including the 42,000 people who are on government-funded training schemes, but, along with the 32,000 who became self-employed (much-respect to them!), more people are earning a living rather than claiming a living.
However, I suspect today's figures will show that is the last peak for some time and we might even see jobs numbers on the slide as post-Olympic reality comes into sharp focus.
So, unemployment may be bad now, but it’ll get a whole lot worse if we don’t have the skilled people to fill the jobs that’ll be available.
If businesses can’t create permanent positions for the unemployed how the hell are they supposed to fund the training of apprentices?
For some time I have been calling for government to turn Job Seeker’s Allowance into a Job Achiever’s Allowance, which is given to employers to part fund training and wages of apprentices.
It’s common sense, but sometimes common sense is ignored, or more like, just ain’t that common!
There may be another way, if the whispers of the content of social entrepreneur Jason Holt’s apprenticeship review for Vince Cable’s gang at the department for Business, Industry and Skills are to be believed.
Due out at the end of this month, the review could say that the £1bn apprenticeship budget should be given to employers rather than third-party providers. If that’s true, and it’s put into practice, Mr Holt deserves a permanent statue on a plinth in Trafalgar Square!
For too long employers like me have been saying that if we’re going to create the right workforce for our businesses we need greater involvement in their training.
Diverting cash direct to employers that will take kids out of the dole queue and straight into structured training programme with employed-status and the prospects for a long-term career will send a shockwave through the unemployment figures and make the future of this country, its people and its economy feel a lot more secure. If we are going to avoid unemployment levels unseen in this country, and ones so ingrained that we may never recover from, we need to put money in to job creation, and we need to get it to the source of production where it will do most good. And if you will permit me one more Olympic metaphor - we all have seen what happen to Australia's medal count after they stopped pumping money in to sport!