The European Parliament has adopted a call for a Europe-wide youth guarantee scheme, which will increase EU funding to help get young people out of work back into education, training or a job.
The EU scheme builds on recent work by Vince Cable and the UK coalition government on a Youth Contract and dramatic increases in youth apprenticeships. Lib Dem MEPs welcomed the vote - and highlighted votes by Tory MEPs against the plan.
West Midands MEP Phil Bennion, Lib Dem Employment Spokesman in the European Parliament, commented:
“This is not a guarantee of a job but it is a guarantee of real help in getting a job or a training place. It builds on the recent work by the UK government and we have made sure that current government programmes will not be undermined or adversely affected.
"The plan was supported by a big majority but I saw many Tory MEPs around me voting against, which was disappointing but not surprising. It is pure Euro-scepticism - voting against something their own government has supported just because it is European.
"Liberal Democrats in government and in Europe are determined to tackle youth unemployment and build a stronger, fairer economy. That is why a £1bn Youth Contract was launched last April, giving nearly half-a-million young people the chance to earn and learn. These measures are now beginning to bear fruit.
“The recent national fall in unemployment was driven by the biggest drop in youth unemployment on record. In England, the number of 16-24 year olds not in education, training or work fell by 136,000 over the last year, though unfortunately our region has not yet matched this progress. But the number of apprenticeships in the West Midlands starting in 2010 to 2011 financial year rose to 32,580, a rise of 25% compared to the previous year, which is good news.
"The EU Youth Guarantee Scheme will build on this recent progress by providing additional funding from the European Social Fund. This will help finance new government initiatives, such as the increased grants for small and medium-sized businesses taking on young apprentices announced by Vince Cable last week.
“This vote shows that the EU is starting to catch up on initiatives here and how the EU and national governments can work together to tackle youth unemployment and train the workforce of the future."
The Youth Contract works through wage subsidies, work placements, apprenticeships and tailored efforts focused on 16-18-year olds. The proposal for a Youth Guarantee is part of the European Commission's Youth Employment package, and would use EU funding such as the European Social Fund to help member states invest in education and training for young people who have been unemployed for over four months.
Apprenticeships: In the West Midlands, over 6,400 new apprenticeships for 16-24 year olds have been created since the Liberal Democrats entered government, (a 25% rise).