Gateshead College principal’s fears of another ‘lost generation’

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Gateshead College principal’s fears of another ‘lost generation’

Gateshead College principal’s fears of another ‘lost generation’

A LEADING figure in North East education has spoken of his fears that the Government is at risk of creating a ‘lost generation’.Richard Thorold, principal at Gateshead College, says the difficult jobs market and rising tuition fees are leading many young people to feel ‘abandoned, humiliated and destroyed’.He believes the Government should be trying harder to encourage businesses to take on more apprentices and questions whether ministers are really informed enough to make the right decisions.Speaking exclusively to The Journal yesterday, he said: ‘I can’t believe that anyone who’s been to Eton or Oxbridge, which covers most of the front bench MPs, really understands the problems many of our young people are facing.’Maybe some of the ministers need to spend some time living on an estate in Gateshead before they make judgements or decisions which affects families and communities.’Whenever I see discussions in Parliament, I wonder if they are taking the issue seriously, or just treating it like they would in a university debating society. They don’t seem to realise that what they are discussing impacts on people’s lives.’He added: ‘I’m concerned we are seeing a return to the 80s and are going to create a lost generation of young people who end up hanging about on street corners with no job, no prospects and no hope.’Mr Thorold has voiced his concerns after the latest figures showed there are now almost one million 16 to 24-year-olds not in education, employment or training, more commonly known as ‘Neets’.He believes the wider society is at risk of turning its back on them, unless the Government and business leaders step in to create more training opportunities.’There will always be a number of people who don’t want to work and never will, and I think we have to accept that,’ he said.’However, if you were to ask the majority of people, I’m sure they’d say all they wanted was a decent job so they could lead a comfortable life and provide for themselves and their family.’We need to encourage more businesses to take on an apprentice, even if it meant they had a drop in profit. I realise that might sound controversial, but if every business which could took on one apprentice, we wouldn’t be in this situation.’The Government needs to establish a focussed voice to tackle the issue, because it’s not doing enough.’Businesses that are offering quick apprenticeships in 12 weeks, with no real job opportunities at the end, are not helping.’Mr Thorold raised his concerns in the same week deputy prime minister Nick Clegg announced plans to help 55,000 Neets aged 16 to 17-years-old with a new £126m scheme.Charities and businesses with expertise in supporting young people are being invited to bid for contracts worth up to £2,200 for every young person they help.Reacting to the announcement, a North East spokesman for the CBI said: ‘This is a step forward, but we remain concerned that this programme does not go far enough.’We still need to see urgent action in schools to minimise the risk of young people becoming Neets in the first place, through better careers and study advice and improved business-school links.’According to the latest figures published this week, in the North East, 16.4% – or 54,000 – of 16 to 24-year-olds are Neets.Echoing Mr Thorold’s comments, Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson said: ‘These figures confirm what young people in my constituency already know – this Government is creating a jobless generation.’Complacent and out of touch ministers need to wake up to the jobs crisis they’re creating and take urgent action now.’A spokesman for the Department for Education said: ‘The number of young people who are not in education, employment or training has been too high for too long – we are determined to bring the numbers down.’We are making sure that young people have the skills they need to get ready for work – creating the biggest apprenticeships programme our country has ever seen and overhauling vocational education, so all employers can be confident about the rigour of our qualifications.’

Paul Champion
Strategic Project Manager

Mobile: 07540 704920

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