Unions have warned that a generation of young people could end up on a “scrapheap of inactivity”, as A-level results come out.
Pass rates have hit 97.6 per cent with an unprecedented 27 per cent achieving an A grade.
The University and Colleges Union (UCU) criticised the lack of funding for extra university student places, at a time when demand for university and apprenticeships had reached a record high. Combined with the unsettled job market, this shortage meant a whole generation could face joblessness and inactivity, it said.
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: “The government’s refusal to fund sufficient places, but threaten institutions with fines for over-recruitment, means we will see thousands desperately fighting over the few places available through clearing or facing an uncertain job market. With punitive cuts planned for both further and higher education we risk consigning a whole generation to the scrapheap of inactivity.”
Hunt also criticised the universities minister, David Willetts, for apparently advising some people “to temper their ambition” and apply to “less competitive” universities next year.
She said: “I am astounded that the government’s insulting response to the university crisis is simply to advise some people to temper their ambition.
“Too many bright teenagers will be left with no educational place this summer and will have to chance their arm in the most competitive job market for years.”
The TUC criticised the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, for comments he made yesterday on social mobility. Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said: “There is something deeply strange about a government announcing its commitment to social mobility in a week when thousands of school-leavers with good exam results will find that they cannot get a university place because of the same government’s spending cuts.”
But the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) argued that long-term prospects for school-leavers were “still positive”. The latest REC Jobs Outlook survey found that while employers’ short-term hiring plans have been hit by the economic climate, a growing number do expect to start hiring again in the next 12 months.
Kevin Green, REC chief executive, said: “School-leavers are facing a perfect storm of an extremely competitive jobs market, a lack of effective guidance and a shortage of university places. However, our advice is to remain positive as there are still job opportunities out there.”
He said school-leavers should be aware of the skills employers want, what the growth sectors are and to make the most of different routes into work such internships and temporary assignments.
Source: People Management