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April 24, 2012

Employment minister calls on firms to hire young British "gems"

Employment minister Chris Grayling has called on businesses not to overlook home-grown potential talent, following a surprise fall in unemployment figures, writes Georgina Harris.
In a speech to Parliament’s Policy Exchange committee, Grayling said Britain’s firms should take on school leavers rather than established workers from abroad. “It’s easy to hire someone from Eastern Europe with five years’ experience,” he said.

“But those who look closer to home find gems too — turning round the lives of somebody from a poor background, given no real opportunity in life — and end up with a model employee as a result. So we should give these young people a chance.”

New Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures revealed that between December 2011 and the end of February 2012, a total of 35,000 dole claimants had found work, leaving 2.65 million unemployed.

Down from a 12-year high, the unemployment rate in the UK is now 8.3%, the first fall since May 2011. But a 7% rise in the number of part-time jobs suggested many new workers may be underemployed — and with pay inflation at 1.1% failing to match cost-of-living rises at 3.5% per cent, most of Britain’s workforce has effectively taken a pay cut since 2011.

Grayling’s call to hire school-leavers followed the announcement that in the same period, the number of unemployed 16-24 year olds dropped by 25,000. However, the ONS said that over one million teenagers remain unemployed.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) welcomed the Minister’s focus on encouraging businesses to take on more young unemployed people. “The figures showed that jobs are being created across the private sector,” said CBI director for employment and skills Neil Carberry. “Business will always hire the best person for the job, but the stark reality is that too few young unemployed people are positioned to get them.

“Initiatives like the Youth Contract and freezing the minimum wage for young people will help encourage employers to give young, relatively inexperienced people a chance,” he added.

“But businesses need longer-term solutions. We need to see more companies and schools working together to arm our young people with the skills they need to shine in the jobs market. The onus is on the Government to turn our education system around so it better prepares young people for work.”