Jeff Cuthbert, Deputy Minister for Skills
I wish to update Members on our plans to implement a new approach to youth engagement and progression in Wales later this year.
Members will know that Welsh Government published a Youth Engagement and Employment Action plan in January 2011. Since that date the commitment to reducing the number of young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) has been reaffirmed in the Programme for Government. My determination to continue making progress in this area is undiminished.
There has been much work at both Welsh Government and Local Authority level over the last few years in implementing the actions that were set out in the plan. We are today publishing an update on progress against each of the 18 actions (at Annex A). Some of the actions have now been completed, significant progress has been made against many others, and in a number of cases further progress is still needed as actions were planned for completion by 2015.
I am pleased to report that in recent years there has been some progress in our drive to see a reduction in the number of young people who are NEET. Some Local Authorities, particularly in cases where they have made NEET reduction an area-wide priority and where focussed leadership has come from the Chief Executive and other senior staff, have managed to secure notable improvements. Data from Careers Wales about the destinations of young people at 16 show that, overall in Wales across the last five years, there has been a 2.5% increase in the numbers of young people with a positive destination after Year 11.
Nevertheless, the NEET statistics have remained stubbornly high for too long, compared with other UK countries and a new approach to implementing more consistent and effective engagement and progression strategies across 22 Local Authorities in Wales is required.
When I appeared before the Enterprise and Business Committee in May last year I committed to review the Youth Engagement and Employment Action Plan and if necessary to update and revise it, to take account of the changing economic climate and priorities within the Programme for Government.
Given the on-going economic challenges we face as a country I am committed to ensuring that the best possible opportunities exist for maximising youth engagement and progression. We need to build on and learn from best practice and there is much to be found in Wales and beyond which can help to tackle the significant challenges we face. My officials are working closely with eight Local Authorities and other key partners to develop and test more effective approaches to ensuring young people are engaged in education and training and making good progress to further or higher education and sustained employment.
It is also why I have decided that this year is the right time to make the transition from the current 18 point Youth Engagement and Employment Action Plan to a Framework for Youth Engagement and Progression which has been developed on the basis of the good practice identified by Local Authorities themselves.
The new Youth Engagement and Progression Framework is being developed around the needs of young people, strengthening the accountability of different agencies in the system for delivering better outcomes for young people.
The foundations of our approach are based on six key building blocks:
- Identifying young people most at risk of disengagement
- Better brokerage and co-ordination of support for them
- Stronger tracking and transitions of young people through the system
- Ensuring provision meets the needs of young people
- Strengthening employability skills and opportunities for employment
- And finally - greater accountability for Local Authorities
There is further work to do to develop the Framework over the coming months. When the Framework is ready for implementation I propose to publish a final update of progress made against the actions set out in the Youth Engagement and Employment Action Plan before a transition to implementing the new six part Framework takes place.
The Minister will make an oral statement in early March and I will of course keep members updated on progress.