New Deal criticised for poor guidance

July 14, 2000

College chiefs this week called for better educational advice for unemployed young people after MPs found serious problems with the government's New Deal scheme.

The Association of Colleges said that it came as no surprise that MPs found that more than eight out of ten young people who took the education and training option on the New Deal left college without the qualifications they had sought.

The Commons' education and employment committee report into the New Deal found that high drop-out rates could be due to the failure of New Deal personal advisers to assess accurately young people's educational needs and so refer them to appropriate courses. It suggested that there was more pressure placed on young people to get jobs than to obtain the college courses most appropriate to their longer term needs.

The report, published on Tuesday, also found that large numbers of those who had left college got short-term jobs. The report recommended that more data should be published on people moving from the full-time education and training option into jobs held for more than 13 weeks and jobs held for more than 26 weeks.

John Brennan, director of further education development for the AoC, said:

"The issues raised by the report are ones that we were concerned about right from the beginning of the New Deal.

"The issue is whether New Deal participants are being encouraged to carry through programmes that improve their long-term employability rather than getting them into jobs as soon as possible.

"The inability of personal advisers to make proper judgements on educational needs is something that has been reported to us by colleges. I think college input into the advisory service could be strengthened. Personal advisers cannot be expected to be experts in everything."

Government figures show that 216,000 18 to 24-year-olds have been helped into work through the New Deal since it began two years ago. Of the 73,600 who opted for education and training, 5,100 have so far found sustained employment. Other options include full-time employment and voluntary work. People who refuse to take any of the options can have their unemployment benefits stopped.

There are about 2,700 personal advisers attached to JobCentres dealing with young people. Their training was overhauled this year, the employment service said.

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