The British Chambers of Commerce has today (Sunday) called on George Osborne to use his Budget speech on 19th March to focus on youth employment, training and enterprise – which are crucial to securing future growth and avoiding a ‘lost generation’ as the UK economy continues to recover.

Overview

In its submission to the 2014 Budget, the business organisation responds to employers’ concerns about the work readiness of young people. We are currently faced with a deficient education, training and skills system, which has resulted in a troubled labour market, high social costs and increased youth unemployment.

This week’s data from the Office for National Statistics showed a fall in youth unemployment by 48,000, and although this is encouraging, the jobless rate among young people still stands at 917,000 which is far too high. In fact, this means that young people are nearly three times as likely to be unemployed compared with the rest of the UK population.

As a result, the BCC is proposing concrete measures to promote business investment in young people aged 16-24. Our submission also calls on the Chancellor to enhance tax incentives for those investing in companies run by young entrepreneurs, who often say they can’t get growth funding from banks or other sources. BCC Director General John Longworth is urging the Chancellor to play his part in making 16-24 year olds more attractive to businesses, who in return can help the Britain avoid a lost generation.

The BCC submission proposes:

  • A new £100m Future Workforce Grant scheme – a £1,000 payment to businesses who hire long-term unemployed young people or a new apprentice, to create 100,000 new jobs in 2014. This will help to bridge the gap before the national insurance exemption for under 21s is introduced in 2015. 
  • A two-year extension to the successful Apprenticeships Grant for Employers (AGE) scheme to help create 80,000 additional apprenticeships. Demand from candidates has outstripped supply of apprenticeship vacancies by as much as 12 to one.2
  • Increased tax relief to encourage investment in young entrepreneurs. Increasing the tax relief available through theEnterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) from 30% to 50% for investors in businesses run by under-24s will help more young people set up and grow their own business.

At just under £400m, the estimated cost of these interventions is less than 0.02% of government current spending for the next three years, and is just a fraction of the projected departmental underspend for 2013-2014 (£7bn).3 

The BCC’s letter also encourages the Chancellor to extend the enhanced Annual Investment Allowance for businesses to 2015/16, and consider opening it to premises as well as plant and machinery. Beyond the Budget, the business group plans to make wider proposals for economic reform in the autumn.

Commenting, BCC Director General John Longworth said:

“We all know that politicians are already looking to manifestos and the 2015 General Election. But the crisis of confidence separating Britain’s employers and young people can’t wait for political posturing or the electoral cycle. Businesses across Britain tell me they want to hire young people. Yet many cannot afford to take the risk, especially at a time when other, more qualified applicants are coming forward for the job vacancies on offer.

“If the Chancellor wants to avoid a lost generation among today’s 16-to-24 year-olds, he must use the spring Budget to help businesses take on and train up young people, whether they are going straight into jobs or into apprenticeships. He should also extend tax incentives for individuals with deep pockets who invest in businesses started up by school and college leavers and graduates.

“The Chancellor rightly wants to boost business investment in this year’s Budget and we support measures to do this, but not just for plant and machinery. We know there are many serious structural issues that need to be addressed to create a truly great UK economy, but not all of them can be resolved at this point in the political and economic cycle.

“Getting young people into employment is vital, pressing, and easily affordable right now. Helping British youth in the way we propose would cost less than 7% of what the government spent on overseas aid last year, for example. If government helps businesses overcome the real risks they are facing today, the private sector will invest in a skilled workforce for the future.” 

Ends

Notes to editors:

1 The unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds was 19.9% for the three months to December 2013, almost three times the national unemployment rate of 7.2%.

2 www.apprenticeships.org.uk

3 HMT Autumn Statement, December 2013

A copy of the BCC’s full Budget submission can be obtained via the BCC press office. A link to our 2014 Skills and Employment Manifesto can be found here.

BCC Director General, John Longworth, is available for interview from any London studio on Sunday 23rd February and Monday 24th February.

Media contacts:

Lisa Morrison – Press and Communications Manager

020 7654 5812 / 07717682221

Allan Williams – Press and Communications Officer

020 7654 5813 / 07825746812

The BCC’s Annual Conference, entitled State of the Nation – Good to Great, is taking place on 1 April 2014. Guest speakers include Rt Hon Michael Gove, Rt Hon Ed Balls, Lord Mandelson, Karren Brady and many more. To view the agenda in full or to register for a free press pass, click here or contact the press office.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) sits at the heart of a powerful network of 53 Accredited Chambers of Commerce across the UK, representing thousands of businesses of all sizes and within all sectors. For more information visit: www.britishchambers.org.uk