One of the policy areas I am particularly interested in is youth unemployment. Today, as part of the Westminster Education Forum, I chaired a panel discussion on course development in higher education. One of the key questions was about engaging employers in the design and delivery of courses. Getting employers involved at this stage will ensure graduates leave with the necessary skills required for employment.
Currently, although youth unemployment figures are down to an almost all time low of 14.9%, the not so great news is that young people are disproportionately unemployed, trapped in the bottom half of the skills hourglass and less likely than previous generations to acquire new skills once they’ve got into work. Young people need careers, not just ‘any job’ but sustainable employment.
What can be done? There is significant consensus among organisations and charities on some key elements and particularly on the importance of employer engagement. We need a joined up, local approach. Education must be joined to the workplace. Local employers should work with schools to give experience and information about the local labour market. We also need greater ‘employer ownership of skills’. This means employers and industries need to agree and communicate which skills and qualifications they value and need. In a digital age this is particularly important for ‘future proofing’ not just our young people but the economy as well.
Clearly, thinking about different ways of engaging employers is important and in the Lords I asked if the government would insert a condition into all public procurement requiring bidding businesses to offer high-quality apprenticeships. This would serve to ensure more companies offer the kind of decent in work training opportunities our young people need. Greater collaboration between business and government should also aim to create more middle-ranged jobs, so there can be genuine progression up a career ladder and less of a trap in the low skilled ‘any job’ bulge at the bottom.
Another area that needs to be ‘joined up’ is overall responsibility for the problem across departments. The Department for Education, Department for Work and Pensions and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills all have accountability for some of the services which can transform a young person’s transition from school to work, but they all work to different objectives, and the young people most likely to end up in the unemployment statistics fall through the cracks. The success of London 2012 shows what we can achieve when we cut across Whitehall departments and invest responsibility in one person to allow them to achieve a clearly defined goal. The growing consensus, that we can completely eradicate youth unemployment, points toward the opportunity to create an even greater legacy – if it can be grasped.
Chris being interviewed about new technology to help visually impaired people.
Chris took part in a trial of an amazing new device, currently at prototype stage, that equips blind people with extra tools and information when navigating city centres, including accessing public transport.
Speaking on Radio 5 live Chris described the headset as “your navigator, personal guide, transport information, local historian, all the (information about) shopping stuff… It’s absolutely incredible. And it’s the confidence it gives you. It was the first time I had done that route and it just felt so comfortable.”
The technology – developed by Microsoft, Guide Dogs and the UK government’s Future Cities Catapult – takes the form of a smart headset paired with a Windows Phone app, which has been designed for people with sight loss.
The headset is a modified pair of headphones, which hooks over the wearer’s ears and rests on their jaw bone, transmitting sound to their inner ear using vibrations. This means that the wearer can hear sound from the headphones and from their environment simultaneously.
Microsoft has added a small 3D-printed box on the back of the headset containing an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a compass, as well as a GPS chip, so that the user’s position can be tracked.
Click here for further media coverage of the device…
For the first time since participating in the Seoul Games in 1988, Chris travelled back to Korea to give the keynote speech at the 2014 Inclusive Sport and Society Forum. The Forum was organised by the Korean Paralympic Committee just ahead of the Incheon 2014 Asian Para Games and was attended by UN Special Advisor on Sport, Wilfried Lemke, and International Paralympic Committee President, Sir Philip Craven. Themes developed at the conference were the integration of disabled and non-disabled sports and social inclusion through sports.
Read more here
Chris was invited to speak at the Gala Dinner marking the International Paralympic Committee’s 25th Anniversary. The Gala Dinner, in Berlin, was the highlight of a three-day event celebrating 25 years so far, and discussing the future strategic direction of the Paralympic Movement. One of the highlights of the evening was when Chris learnt that the London 2012 Paralympic Games had come top of the list of 25 greatest ever Paralympic Sport Moments.
At this year’s Conservative Party Conference Chris spoke at events organised by Demos and the Work Foundation. Both events covered a subject he cares passionately about; creating employment opportunities and giving people a chance for a better future. Although unemployment figures are at a record low employment prospects for many young people and disabled people remain a particular struggle.
Disabled people are more than twice as likely as non-disabled people to be lacking but wanting work. The government now has an important opportunity to look at new ways to improve employment outcomes for disabled people. “Living with Disability: Improving employment outcomes” was run by Demos and launched a fascinating collection of essays titled “How far we’ve travelled and how far we have to go….”.
Chris also took part in a panel discussion organised by the Work Foundation and chaired by Fraser Nelson. It asked the question; what would constitute a good youth labour market? ‘More Than a Job’ – Creating Career Opportunities for Young People.
More about the event
On September 10th Lord Holmes joined Helen Grant, Minister for Sport, to launch a new Premiership Rugby programme that aims to get more women and ethnic minorities involved in rugby. An EHRC grant of £600000 will be used to get 700 women and girls into the sport, train up 480 coaches and involve 2500 participants. Chris sees this new initiative as a key part of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic legacy and a powerful way to close the gender gap in a sport in which women and ethnic minorities are particularly underrepresented. Read more about the project in the articles below:
Helen Grant and Lord Holmes at Rugby launch
‘Premiership Rugby receives 600000 grant to increase the number of women in the sport’ Telegraph, 10th September 2014
Lord Holmes and Premiership Rugby look to continue London 2012 Legacy, Premiership Rugby Website
This summer the Equalities and Human Rights Commission have published a handy passport sized guide to your rights when you fly as a disabled traveller. Due to a legal loophole the rights we citizens enjoy on the ground in UK and EU countries are replaced by an outdated agreement known as the Montreal Convention when we board a plane. What this means for disabled travellers is that should anything go wrong in the air, or indeed airside when you have cleared check in, you will not be protected by the rights enshrined in domestic equality legislation. The passport guide has been produced to help travellers know what rights they do have and what measures they can take to make sure they have the smoothest journey possible. Read Chris’s blog on the subject..