Autumn Statement: Norfolk reacts to chancellor’s bid to end ‘culture of worklessness’
Extra apprenticeships, more university places and scrapping employer’s National Insurance contributions for under 21s - those were measures announced to equip young people for the future.
And young jobseekers without certain qualifications will have to do up to 16 hours per week of training or risk losing their benefits.
Chancellor George Osborne announced £40m will create an extra 20,000 higher apprenticeships will be offered in England up to 2014/15, while changes are being made to the way apprenticeships are funded.
That was welcomed by Caroline Williams, chief executive of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce. She said: “We support the concept of businesses taking on greater control of apprenticeship funding, although that is probably more suitable for larger businesses. We would like to see an alternative for smaller businesses.”
The government said the abolition of employer National Insurance contributions for under 21s earning up to £42,000 from April 2015 would benefit 34,000 employers in the East of England and save them £50m in the first year.
Mrs Williams said that was good news, but said she did have concerns that young people aged over 21 could find it harder to find a job. She said: “We would have liked to see some sort of gradient applied after the age of 21, rather than it just changing straight away, as that could lead to some people being disadvantaged.”
Norwich North Conservative MP Chloe Smith said the national insurance announcement was “extremely welcome”.
She said: “It is good news for businesses that are going to be taking on young people and as a founder of Norwich for Jobs I know it is something employers are really looking for.
The response to our campaign has been really strong so far and shows that employers are really willing to give young people a chance.”
Mr Osborne, who said he was ending the “option” of a “culture of worklessness”, also announced that in some areas anyone aged 18 to 21 signing on without level 2 qualifications in English and maths will be required to do up to 16 hours per week of training alongside jobsearch - or risk losing their benefits.
He said: “Without basic maths or English, there is a limited chance any young person will be able to stay off welfare. So we are taking a new approach.”
But Mrs Williams said she would rather see more support to schools, to tackle the problem before young people tried to get jobs.
A further announcement to help young people was that the cap on the numbers of students England’s universities can admit is to be lifted in 2015, paving the way for institutions such as the University of East Anglia to expand.
A UEA spokeswoman said: “We will need to assess the detail of the announcement to determine what impact the removal of the cap would have on our corporate objectives and our plans for student numbers.
“UEA will ensure that any future growth is sustainable and we are able to maintain the delivery of our leading student experience and student satisfaction.”