Opinion

Political parties must focus on education ahead of the general election

4 min read

02 April 2015

After much speculation, predictions and comment, George Osborne has delivered his last Budget before the May election. But for all the fanfare of ISAs and reducing the deficit, there was a worrying lack of talk around education and youth unemployment. Is there a sustained and long-term plan for the next generation?

Young Enterprise, the UK’s leading enterprise and financial education charity, believes that in order to achieve full economic recovery, the focus needs to be on the next generation who are still in full time education.

ONS’s latest Labour statistics show youth unemployment to be triple the headline rate, at 16.2 per cent. While this is an improvement of 0.4 per cent from the previous quarter, it remains far too high, and represents a large number of young people who are unemployed and economically inactive; 1.4m in total.

Despite employment being on the up across the country, which is important for the improvement of the economy, youth employment is still nowhere near where it should be, for example Germany’s and Norway’s youth unemployment rates are at seven per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively.

This change should be made at grassroots level; in school. Research from the Money Advice Service shows that adult money habits can be formed as young as seven. As such, beginning financial education in primary school and making it a statutory part of the curriculum will make a real difference to nationwide levels of financial literacy and capability. Future generations will finish education equipped with essential life skills, making them more prepared for work and life and more employable.

The government should place emphasis on the importance of financial capability and savings, and giving young people the advice they need. By providing people with the tools and ability to see the bigger picture, they will be in a healthier financial situation and be able to leave the credit culture behind.

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Those involved in education need to be supported to deliver the best quality financial education, and the recent MAS review by Christine Farnish highlights the importance of having the right resources for teachers.

Supporting teachers will also improve key skills development in schools, through both financial education on the curriculum, and through enterprise education programmes such as those offered by Young Enterprise, which are proven to encourage skills development such as resilience and team work.

We need a sustainable, long-term skills strategy where enterprise and financial education are at the heart of government policy. This should include working with Ofsted to build enterprise and financial education into school inspections and an Enterprise Skills Passport to enable young people to showcase their enterprise work and demonstrate key skills progression.

Such changes and initiatives require significant resources and financial support. We need to focus on improving the prospects of the next and future generations and ensure all young people have the right opportunities. Investing in our young people will not only benefit their future lives, but also benefit the UK’s economy.

Michael Mercieca is the CEO of Young Enterprise.

Image via Shutterstock.