young learnersYoung people in the UK spend almost two-and-a-half years out of work on average, longer than those in longer than those in many other developed nations such as the Netherlands, Iceland, Norway, Australia and Germany.

Many young people will be out of the job market because they have “given up, more or less”, according to Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s deputy director for education and skills.

He warned that the “biggest challenge” to the UK at this time is to help those youngsters who do not have decent qualifications and struggle to find work.

The OECD’s latest Education at a Glance report suggests that the people who have paid the price for the global economic crisis are individuals with low levels of education, with a wide employment gap between those who have a degree and those without.

The report says that unemployment rates rose “across the board” between 2000 and 2011, but individuals with few qualifications were the worst off.

Neil Carberry, CBI director of employment and skills, commented: “We’re facing a critical lack of skills in key sectors which risks holding back long-term growth. UK competitiveness relies on a highly skilled workforce, so we cannot afford to waste talent.”

He added: “Raising the education and training participation age to 18 is right – but we need a much stronger system to get the most out of it. Rigorous exams are a must, but they must be part of a system that also produces rounded and grounded young people.

“We need to end ingrained snobbishness about technical education. We need to offer much more engaging and rigorous academic and vocational education from 14 onwards – building up to strong, recognised qualifications at 18 in both under the respected A-level banner.”