Vocational training needs ‘parity of esteem’ in youth employment efforts

Ireland needs to change its approach to vocational education and training, including apprenticeships, to establish “parity of esteem” with degree courses, according to Dublin MEP Emer Costello. “Apprenticeships should be made more widely available – including in growth sectors like health care, communications and green technology – and made more attractive, including to girls,” she said.

Speaking at an event on the EU ‘youth guarantee’ programme in Liberty Hall last week, she said the findings of a recent review of apprenticeships, which recommended expanding them to new sectors, should be implemented “in the middle of the year.” Consultation on the recommendations of the review, carried out by Labour Court chairman Kevin Duffy, is currently underway.

With Irish youth unemployment currently at almost 30%, Ms Costello said employment initiatives were badly needed to get young people into work. She said Ireland had pushed hard to get the youth guarantee programme finalised during its EU presidency last year. As a result, €6 billion had been earmarked for 2014 -2015, with €130 million allocated to Ireland. Costello said this was “not enough, but it’s a good start.”

Guarantee

Youth guarantee aims to ensure that out-of-work under-25s are offered a good quality job offer, apprenticeship, traineeship or education place within four months of becoming unemployed. It is currently being rolled out in a pilot project in Ballymun.

Speakers from National Youth Council of Ireland, SIPTU, business and the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU) welcomed the programme. But Brid O’Brien of the INOU called for the youth guarantee to place more emphasis on accessing jobs and said the state should “revisit its policy of pulling back from employing people.”

She also called for more emphasis on inequality, especially to address the fact that “a lot of employers simply won’t employ people from disadvantaged areas.” Ms O’Brien called the sanction of reduced benefits for young people who refused places on programmes “a big stick approach” which was “a major fault in the design” of labour activation measures.

A recent study of Finland, where a comprehensive youth guarantee scheme is already in place, found that over 83% of young job seekers received a successful offer within three months of registering as unemployed. The Finnish scheme has led to personalised plans for young people being drawn up more quickly, ultimately lowering unemployment.