DEL are failing our young people

The A-level and GCSE results have come and gone, the papers have got their shots of nubile, barely legal teenagers and tens of thousands of happy kids are now preparing to go to university or are back to school.  Unfortunately there are many who aren’t.  The phone lines at Queen’s were overloaded with thousands of callers looking for places in clearing.  Thousands more emailed and a large number just turned up on the doorstep hoping to get a place. Queen’s only had 100 places available through clearing.  However, those who didn’t make it in aren’t the only ones who should be concerned.

32,582 A-levels were sat in Northern Ireland this summer and 84.2% of those achieved a grade A*-C. I assume a large majority of those were hoping to go into Higher Education but universities aren’t able to accept more than their quota and get fined around £3,000 per student if they do. 178,017 sat GCSEs and 74.8% got a grade A*-C.

So over 5,000 pupils didn’t get grades of A*-C at A-level and almost 45,000 didn’t get their GCSEs.  It should be noted that these figures are for entries not pupils so the actual figures will be lower.  So I’ll guess there are 20,000 young people not continuing their education in university or school.  They’ll need to go to Further Education colleges or try and get a job.

Currently 17% of 18-24 year olds are unemployed.  These figures ignore those in education or training so the actual number without jobs will be much higher.  PriceWaterhouse Cooper’s school leaver scheme had 1,600 applicants for 100 jobs.  Many of these young people who aren’t returning are going to be left scratching their arses watching Jeremy Kyle.

Some will try and get into FE, a perfectly valid route but one which also has a limited capacity.  Last year techs across the country were oversubscribed and those at the bottom got pushed out.  So they joined schemes like DEL’s Training for Success Program-Led Apprenticeships, a course split between directed learning in classrooms and work placements.  But it seems the government think the number of people entering FE is falling.

When not trying to get a degree at my third attempt and force my way into journalism, I work for a Training Organisation.  We are also oversubscribed, we just don’t have the capacity for the numbers of young people that want (or have been told) to gain qualifications.  It is also becoming increasingly difficult to get them work placements.

Businesses don’t want to bring in people from these schemes because there is so little work that students would be twiddling their thumbs, or their staff are concerned about losing their jobs because someone is willing to do it for free (DEL pays students £40 a week so employers don’t have to).  Trying to convert a placement into an Apprenticeship is currently nigh on impossible.

On top of this a memo was sent from DEL on Friday that stated that funding for adult Apprenticeships (for those over twenty-five) was being cut by half.  The same day someone who works fairly closely with DEL said to me, “They’ve no money at all.”  There are reports that DEL’s deficit this year is £40 million, there are rumours that it could be running at higher than £60m.  And they still haven’t come to a decision on funding university places in a year.

At the minute the system is failing to help those who need it the most. We are trying our best to engage with disadvantaged young people, but funding is being pulled.   The recent (and postponed) tender to run training courses for DEL had cuts built in.  It will become increasingly difficult to train those who are leaving school to enter employment, while employers are increasingly reluctant to employ any young people.

We are creating a new generation of NEETs (not in education, employment or training). The economy will have a smaller workforce and more on the dole.  There will be more very angry people frustrated at their lack of choices to riot on our streets every summer.  The situation was improving for a long time but not enough was done to shore up provision at the bottom of the pile. Now it’s needed, it’s unable to cope.  We are trying our best but we are failing our youth, what else are they supposed to do now but sit in the park drinking a bottle of bucky?



  • BluesJazz

    A very pertinent thread, though possibly unlikely to have many posts due to its not having any green/orange content.
    The title is a bit unfair, as much of the blog could be about many Western countries.
    The ‘nice’ decade, according to Mervyn King, finished in 2008 and a pretty vile one lies ahead. The days of simply producing new public sector jobs have gone for good, and NI relied heavily on this policy, as did other regions.

    Your conclusion, Ben, is perfectly valid.

  • The statistics are very concerning indeed. You don’t mention DELs Pathways to Success consultation nor the. DEL Committee Enquiry the NGO sector have been working with DEL for over a year to try and address the issues – looking at information, prevention and intervention. Many young people are destined to experience labour Market disadvantage from an early age – these young people often are living in what are termed workless households where one or more adults are not working. These young people are likely to experience poverty as children. Many have opted out of education or been excluded long before they reach school leaving age. Prudent to suggest that the failing of these young people kicks in long before they reach 16. My organisation and many others are working to try and make a difference to those young lives – we know that mentoring support for young people whose needs are not met by mainstream training programmes is crucial; making connections with employers and the workplace is also critical and there are employers who are willing to support the employability of young people even in this much tightened labour market

  • BluesJazz

    Soozle makes valid points but ignores the public sector elephant.
    The public sector (70% of the NI workforce) has stopped recruiting, and will do for many years. This has add on effects to the retail economy, which expanded hugely on the public sector boom since 1997.

    Have a look at any city/town centre for the ‘to let’ signs.
    The only growth is in ‘Poundland’ type shops. (And Charity shops).

    The NI construction industry has imploded and there will be no growth for many years.

    The 16- 28 demographic will bear the brunt of this. As they did in the early 80’s. For 1 section of the population, then, there was the RUC (if A levels) or UDR (if not).
    An option no longer available.

    Soozle may be partly missing the elephant when he/she sees the number of unemployed Architects, Solicitors, MBA’s etc.

    The Golden Goose at Westminster has stopped laying those eggs.

    I have absolutely no idea what’s coming down the line, maybe nothing.


    The desperate trying for Belfast Met, and being turned away due to full courses, have nothing to fall back on.

    I’m sure Stormont are right on this and will err..change the situation to positive before next week.

  • Although private sector employers may not be keen to take people on short placements, political parties take all they can get. When someone I know asked if it was possible for someone to do their training in the Green Party, they were told that it is fine, the DUP do it all the time.

  • aquifer

    When companies downsize or close they often throw skilled labour out. We need to recycle those skills experience and also attitudes to work.

    We need a higher ratio of people who start businesses to employ people with less initiative..

    We should be teaching English to immigrants as business courses. We should also be running business start-up classes in the evening, when economically active people who know a business may be free, and that includes our spare civil servants who often have good brains.

  • andnowwhat

    Blues Jazz mentions Australia and migration is (sadly) going to be a real option for our young. As this blog is about education I just want to mention that the 2 most suitable groups for migration are the well educated and also the much less, real trades people.

    My opinion is hardly original but I think we need to collectively take the focus off academic achievement as the ONLY measure of success.

    Regarding NEET’s, these were the people that went in to heavy industry in the past. I refuse to believe the idea that a whole group in society suddenly became work shy over a generation or 2. I do believe that there are people who are simply not that bright and until we have a manufacturing base or somesuch, that would be the natural enviroment for such people to work, we need a plan to make them feel valued and not cast them aside nor vilify them. They didn’t create the mess that the West is in in the 21st century.

    Just a coda. Yesterday I was told about a kid that sadly took his life, this week, on the day his exam results were due. I wonder if he was told of the many alternatives there are?

  • Barnshee

    “I do believe that there are people who are simply not that bright and until we have a manufacturing base or somesuch, that would be the natural enviroment for such people to work”

    It will not happen unless we drop wages to third world rates

    What will be manufactured ? There are few if any raw materials in Ireland north or south. Industries that had prospects were royalled fucked up-compare and contrast the Scottish Whiskey Industry where every hole in wall kept its distillery (and jobs) and Ireland where “Irish Distillers” effectively kllled the individual distilleries (and jobs.)
    Quote fron French at twinning ievent “you have nothing but golf and bad weather”

  • Neil

    25% of people with no GCSEs, yet some will continue to spout the lie that we were doing fantastic with the old system and the 11+ is the only way to go.

    This is what we get with the old system. 25% of people unable to pass a GCSE. I would suggest that the old system isn’t just as fantastic as some would suggest, and that it’s time to stop patting ourselves on the back about how great our kids are.

    25% of people, totally and completely failed and that’s reason for celebration: why? Because the failures aren’t rich kids, the failures don’t matter. They must just be thick, or at the very least poor, so not worth worrying about.

    Thank Christ the 11+ is gone now, maybe we can face up to how fantastic we aren’t and how the old system has failed a massive number of [unimportant, poor] children.

  • BluesJazz

    I think the GCSE results are beside the point. Vocational qualifications are treated as crap by the media. Unlike Germany where they are prized. Any newpaper reports on those who passed their City and Guilds?

    The 11+ is also irrelevant, if non academic qualifications were not disparaged so much, we might have a more balanced workforce.

    The collapse of the construction industry is however a concern. And globalisation means a ‘race to the bottom’ for profit seekers, that’s just the way it is. We had it good for a while, and now a long slow entropy awaits.

  • Quote

    A very pertinent thread, though possibly unlikely to have many posts due to its not having any green/orange content.

    \Well said BluesJazz

  • BluesJazz

    I have no interest in band parades, Irish Language signs or footballers opting for the FAI rather than IFA.
    I suspect many, many other young people or parents have only a passing interest, at best, in such pettiness.
    But it’s a big issue that Ben raises. One that’s going to get much worse. it’s not new, as any 80’s kid will remember. How many of them are now on DLA or IB?

    But it doesn’t really tick the sectarian box. And admittedly, there’s no local answer(s).
    There was no internet in 1981, no discussion of the crushing feeling of lack of employment and hope.
    At least there is a TV show called ‘Red and Black’ to look forward to. If you’ve seen ‘Slumdog millionaire’ you’ll get the picture.
    Great thread Ben.

  • BluesJazz

    DEL are cement. x,000 civil servants struggling to get the day in. On an average salary of £30k+. Dr Stephen Farry claims they’re the best.
    So, luckily our graduates and school and college leavers have a fantastic future here in NI.
    Isn’t that right Dr Farry, Dr Farry????

  • rodgerdoc

    I think the title is unfair completely unfair on the department, Its department I personally have great knowledge of.

    Firstly lets remember we are in a recession s jobs in most sectors are scarce.

    Secondly DEL has to spend within its means with the money it has been allocated so if one wants to blame anyone blame the executive or indeed blame the british government for cutting public services as a whole to recoup the money that was spent bailing out the finanical sector that caused this situation

    DEL as a deaprtment are doing their very best to get EVERYONE back into employment but that is very hard considering the current Labour Market conditions that DEL has no control of.

    DEL given people money to attend interviews with the UK, give money towards many courses and certificates to get people a job, give money for people to buy tools or anything else that can get them back into work on top of the well known programmes and are constantly think of ways to help people back into work.
    I could quote figures and stats but unfortunately I can’t.

    the poster says

    “DEL are cement. x,000 civil servants struggling to get the day in. On an average salary of £30k+. Dr Stephen Farry claims they’re the best.”

    How dare you, frontline staff who deal with those that are unemployed earn half that in gross even less in net, they are not struggling to get the day but instead are struggling to cope with demand. When a local office has on average 1700 JSA claimants with some areas only having 5 vacancies it is very hard for DEL and its staff to work miracles.

    One has to look at the crux of them problem and that is reducing expenditure to get out of a recession rather than spend your way out of it.

    Cutting public funding has the knock on effect of reducing the income of private business’ thereby driving us into a further and deeper recession.