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?