YOUTH EMPLOYMENT AGENCY
A Policy Framework (Extract from “A Policy Framework for the Eighties”).
Given its mandate and the economic and social environment within which it will operate during this decade, the Agency is dedicated to:
-making a net contribution to the process of job creation;
-ensuring that young people have the basic education and training to enable them to find a place in the labour force and to adapt to changing employment circumstances in the future;
-creating a safety-net which can locate and provide a “second chance” for those for whom the mainstream education and training structures have proved inadequate:
-developing a coordinated approach by the various manpower agencies to youth issues.
(a) The problems which the country faces in creating employment for its population are immense; the need to achieve the highest return in terms of economically sustainable jobs from investment is, therefore, of paramount importance; the recovery in international demand will probably be relatively slow and it will be necessary to increase Ireland’s share of both the foreign and home markets. Flexibility in adapting to technological change can make an imporant contribution in meeting this objective.
In these circumstances the Agency supports, as a matter of sound management, a planned approach to the development of the economy and the management of the labour market. This is not a commitment to high levels of regulation but rather to a wider understanding of the objectives being pursued, the means of realising them and the priorities, especially in the allocation of resources, involved in achieving them.
The main institutions involved in this process are:
Departments of Labour and Education, AnCO, NMS, CERT, ACOT, IDA and SFADCo. They are linked with employer and trade union interests through the Manpower Consultative Committee (at national level) and the Regional Manpower Committees and this would seem to provide at least the basis of an adequate institutional framework within which to achieve a coordinated approach.
In the case of most major issues, however, the final decisions, whether in cases of agreement or disagreement, lie with the Minister for Labour and the Government.
(b) Separate consideration needs to be given to the cases of AnCO and CERT to which the Agency provides funding in respect of their training activities for young people generally. (This contrasts with the cases of ACOT, NMS and the Departments of Labour, Environment and Education where funding is in respect of particular programmes).
AnCO and CERT have their own distinct terms of reference and boards, policy priorities, plans and programmes. They are separately responsible to the Minister for Labour for their activities.
In addition, both organisations, to use the currently fashionable terminology, have clear obligations to the “demand” side of the labour market which have largely determined their objectives and policies to date. The Agency, on the other hand, is in terms of emphasis more “supply” oriented in its priorities.
In 1982, proceeds from the Youth Employment Levy were allocated to both organisations in the course of the budget process, on the basis of the proportion of their “clients” under 25 years of age. This amounted to approximately half of the total funds generated by the Levy in the nine collection months of 1982 or one third of the funds available in a full year.
(c) The dividing lines between education, basic vocational training and initial work experience are becoming increasingly blurred and less relevant. They need to be seen as essentially a continuum to which each young person has right of access as part of preparation for open employment. The Agency should work towards a guarantee to each young person of vocational preparation of at least one year’s duration outside the school structure but providing a continuation for the development of the aptitudes identified and the knowledge and skills imparted there.
“Second Chance” Programmes
Even the most advanced education/training/employment systems, such as those found in Sweden and the Federal Republic of Germany, have had to develop programmes to provide second change opportunities for people who, because of choice or circumstances, were not accommodated first time around. It would be unduly optimistic to think that Ireland could escape having to maintain a similar element in its range of programmes. The need for such services for people on the margins of the labour market will not be easily met by adhering to traditional boundaries between education, training and other manpower services. The Agency must, therefore, retain a commitment to the provision of well-designed, flexibly managed and properly resourced schemes to assist young people who, for whatever reason, have not been catered for in the mainstream education/training/work programme.
Coordination with Other Agencies
(a) The Agency’s Memorandum implies a need for the coordination and integration of existing manpower services for young people which coincides with the views of the Agency and of outside commentators. The Agency will attempt to fulfil this part of its mandate by arriving at a common analysis of the needs of the youth employment market on the part of the principal agencies involved and the development of linked, complementary programmes to meet them.
(b) If employment creation needs are to be met, a vigorous approach to the location of new areas of work and their organisation into jobs will be needed. Young people, because of the high levels of unemployment with which they know they are faced in the “traditional” work areas, their usually lower level of commitment to dependents and their more flexible approach to life and work generally, can provide an effective vehicle for such an approach to job creation. They cannot, however, carry out the process from identification to implementation unaided and the Agency will have to take a vigorous development role in this field.
(c) Hand-in-hand with the identification of new areas of work is the need to develop the enterprise and commitment to self-help among young people required to translate them into jobs. This may involve changes in the education and training people’s life-goals and expectations, and the formal structures for the encouragement and support of new, especially small scale, enterprise.
(d) The Agency should promote the development of local community responses to employment creation.
This represents a means of harnessing additional creativity and resources at a level where unemployment and its consequences are most visible and the commitment to action, therefore, often highest. It also provides a means by which people can explore new areas of work, whether in the production of goods or services, which they might be willing to support on a longer term basis.
(e) The Agency should adopt a positive approach to the application of new forms of technology to existing and new employment as the most effective route in the long run to job creation and maintenance in a competitive world economy. There is, however, a major need to help people and not just young people, understand the applications and potential of micro-electronics so that all sectors of society can play a more informed role in their use. During this decade, the question of the redistribution of the benefits of micro-electronic applications will become more urgent and the Agency with its concern for employment creation will have to play a vigorous part in contributing to national policy in this field.
(f) While avoiding the wasteful defence of lost causes, the Agency should not automatically accept conventional wisdom about the prospects for employment decline or low growth in certain sectors. For instance, over time the raising of levels of education and training in agriculture together with new forms of work organisation could have an arresting effect on job losses in that sector. The prospects for growth in sustainable employment, tourism and in the personal services sectors may also have been underestimated. The Agency should seek out these and similar prospects for additional employment creation.
Education and Training
(a) There is evidence that advances in access to educational services made in the 1960’s are being eroded and that the structure and the curriculum are not attuned to the needs of those who will leave the educational system at an early age. Unequal treatment of individuals and groups at this level inevitably carries over and is often entrenched in the labour force. The Agency would be extremely short-sighted and inefficient in its allocation of resources to training, job creation and other services for young people in the labour market if it were to promote research and change to ensure greater equality of access and treatment at all levels of the educational system and the development of curricula more relevant to the needs of young people entering the labour market.
(b) Industrial skills are, under the impact of new technology, increasingly transferable and, therefore, less industry or firm specific. In addition, they are subject to more rapid change than heretofore with more emphasis on intellectual rather than physical skills. This is a situation which demands that expenditure on training be seen as a life investment in individuals and their capacity to contribute to society over their lives rather than just as a mechanism for getting them into their first job.
Clearly, if age is the only criterion for the provision of funding, and given the continuing development plans of both organisations, the element of Levy proceeds over which the Agency has discretion would be progressively eroded and, in theory at any rate, could be totally eliminated over time.
It is, therefore, necessary to establish a framework within which the Agency can work with the major training institutions in the provision of services for young people both as to the programmes and policies to be followed and the funding to be provided to them.
(c) Over time, the aim is to move to a situation with all manpower institutions where funding is provided on the basis of programmes agreed with the Agency. It is only in this way, rather than on the basis of the individual interpretation by each agency of its role and priorities, that real coordination and efficient use of resources can be achieved.