Agency needed to tackle youth unemployment

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
18 April 2021

Labour education and enterprise spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD has called on the Government to implement a national pathway to providing training and education for young people to tackle skyrocketing youth unemployment rates. Pointing to examples of best practice in the UK, Deputy Ó Ríodáin urged Government to stop throwing money at mental health services, and instead implement an agency responsible for reskilling and providing support to young people currently out of work.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“We have a crisis in youth unemployment. Many already driven out of the cities due to inexorable rent and cost of living, the young people who have remained in Ireland are being ignored and disregarded by the Government. As the numbers of youth unemployment continue to rise, Government and industry must step in with urgent support measures, otherwise we are at risk of losing a generation of young people to emigration having been let down by the State.

“Government should have facilitated accessible training throughout the past number of months so that people could have something to focus on aside from the daily case numbers. Instead, as youth unemployment skyrocketed and traditional opportunities to get on the career ladder dried up, this generation of young people have been ignored, potentially scarred for life by the uncertainty and insecurity they are currently experiencing in the labour market.

“Many valuable graduate programmes and internships have either been cancelled or shortened. Usually a valuable opportunity gain experience and begin developing a network, any young person lucky enough to get an internship is doing so online. Anyone who hasn’t been so lucky is facing another barrier to gaining employment when the economy reopens. Young people who have remained employment have had to make huge sacrifices for this, from pay cuts, increased hours with no right to disconnect, to having no opportunity to progress in their careers.

“We are staring down the track of a mental health crisis for young people. Government continue to throw money at mental health services but that fundamentally misses the point. Young people’s mental health is suffering because they have no help or hope. Rather than paying lip service to mental health, Government needs to provide a step plan to get young people either back into employment or provide pathways to apprenticeships or further education. We are fully supportive of the National Youth Council of Ireland’s call for a national task force to get young people back into jobs and education as the economy reopens and we believe that this conversation needs to happen now.

“There are good international examples of what’s possible out there is there was political will to tackle this problem such as the Ethical Recruitment Agency (ERA). Based in a community centre in Grimsby in the UK, where almost half of children grow up in poverty, the ERA establishes relationships with young people seeking work and helps them to retrain. If the State was to introduce such an agency in Ireland, we could undoubtedly target youth unemployment, particularly in disadvantaged areas, leading to fairer opportunities as the economy begins to recover. Such a scheme is doable if Government want to be ambitious for our young people.

“Any country with a youth unemployment rate of 56% needs to have that at the top of their agenda however as we seek to get young people back to work, recovery can’t just be in the cities. Young people in towns and villages have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic as employment opportunities are often characterised by insecure and seasonal employment, with much of the employment concentrated in small, often family run businesses. Coupled with a lack of frequent public transport, this is an area that really needs to be addressed strategically by Government.

“Everyone has used the past year to reflect on their lifestyle and what they want for their future. I am desperately concerned that any of our young people who have remained in Ireland until now will look outside this country for better opportunities not just in terms of employment, but in terms of lifestyle. Ireland doesn’t offer our young people the opportunity to dream for a better life. We have a rental market out of control, and as banks continue to pull out of the country, a mortgage market that is almost impossible to enter into.

“For any young person who wants to remain, we cannot focus on recovering youth unemployment in our cities alone. There are so many untapped opportunities for young people in our cities, towns and villages if only the Government cared. We need community schemes focused on bridging the gap between young and old and bringing together people of all ages, abilities and ethnicities to better life for all.”

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