Bid to extend aid for jobless to graduates

July 6, 2001

The government's New Deal to help the unemployed find jobs or training should be opened up to graduates, professionals and would-be entrepreneurs, work minister Nick Brown has said.

Mr Brown, who has moved from agriculture, is setting his sights on a fresh crop of well-qualified New Deal recruits, as well as targeting the low skilled and disadvantaged sections of the population.

Preparing to launch 50 "job centre plus" initiatives around the country in the autumn, he aims to put the "new" back into the New Deal, which has been running since 1997.

The revamped job centres will unite services and information provided by the benefits agency and the employment service. This should make it easier for them to help those who have been out of work for more than six months to find out what support they are entitled to and what work or training opportunities are available, Mr Brown said.

While the centres are expected to have about 500,000 jobs on offer, as well has thousands of courses, Mr Brown told The THES that he thought there was scope for the range of opportunities to be increased to include places for graduates and other well-qualified people.

He said: "The services we are providing are not exclusive to those without academic abilities - they are there for graduates as well.

"One vacancy in three is formally notified into the employment service. At the moment, it tends to be the graduate opportunities that are not notified. But I do not see why that should be so."

Mr Brown said he would also like to see a New Deal scheme to encourage entrepreneurship that was piloted in Middlesborough extended nationally.

But he wants employers to get more involved and have more of a say in New Deal arrangements, particularly on the training side.

Under the current scheme, the longer-term unemployed have a choice between subsidised employment, a job with the environment task force or in the voluntary sector, or a course of full-time education or training.

The latest figures show that 96,000 young people have started courses under the New Deal.

Mr Brown said it was vital that more people take up training under the New Deal in further education colleges and other institutions.

But he added: "We have to look more closely at the way the courses are structured, and how much learning takes place in the institution and how much goes on in the workplace.

"I want to get employers involved in looking at that, because the requirements will vary from sector to sector."

It was equally important that Mr Brown's new Department for Work and Pensions should stay in touch with the newly formed Department for Education and Skills, he said.

"There is no escaping the importance of the relationship between our two departments," he added.

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