MEP Richard Howitt says Britain will miss out on an additional ‘one billion’ European fund to tackle youth unemployment

Richard Howitt MEP

Richard Howitt MEP

Britain will miss out on an additional ‘one billion’ European fund to tackle youth unemployment, agreed this week in the European Parliament.

With my fellow Labour MEPs, I helped put alternative proposals to get the money and then use it to help restore the thousands of lost apprenticeships under David Cameron.

British young people won’t be able to start benefitting from a thirty times increase in the EU ‘youth employment initiative’ funds being agreed for this year, because of continuing delays by the Government in agreeing with Brussels its programme for spending it.

The EU decision to spend the money this year rather than over five years, is a response to the improved Labour and Socialist showing at last year’s European Elections. It is aimed at creating 650,000 new jobs to deal with the youth unemployment crisis afflicting so much of the continent.

Yet Britain’s failure to agree the funds follows official figures released by the government which expose the fact there have been 75,000 fewer apprenticeships in the past year – 6,000 lost in my own East of England constituency alone.

Official government statistics also show the government’s claim to have doubled apprenticeships is entirely hollow, with four-in-ten firms the government says are providing apprenticeships not even realising  they are doing it.  Almost all the previous growth in what Cameron calls apprenticeships are people over forty – 2,000 are people over sixty. Those people need jobs too – but classifying them as apprentices is clearly misleading.

Meanwhile government claims of economic recovery have been shown to be equally false with a new European study entitled ‘No Country for Young People,’ exploding Tory complacency about their record vis-a-vis the rest of Europe.

Not only is youth unemployment rising again here, but the UK is shown to be clearly below the EU average for young people in employment, education or training – trailing behind both France and Germany.

Labour MEPs demanded this week that the EU money is claimed immediately to start getting British young people in to jobs now, and is used by the next Labour Government to spearhead efforts to restore quality apprenticeships.

Labour’s plans to provide apprenticeships for a minimum of two years duration and with a recognised ‘level three’ qualification fit well with the European Charter on Quality Apprenticeships.  The current government’s record does the opposite.

The word ‘apprentice’ actually comes from the Latin ‘to understand.’  But what I understand is that all the Tories have done is to rebrand what it means to be an apprentice, and simply branded themselves as untrustworthy.

‘The Apprentice’ has to mean more than the name of a television programme.


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Richard Howitt

Richard Howitt MEP is a member of the European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee and Labour Member of the European Parliament for the East of England.

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