Young people in the North East need to be offered an alternative to following their dads on the dole, a former leading government adviser has said.
Lord Donald Curry, who advised the Labour government on rural matters during the foot -and-mouth crisis, said the region has to address its skills crisis so that young people will not just expect the state to fund them.
The cross-bench peer called for a new focus from all organisations in the North East as he made a speech on improving employment prospects across the region.
Speaking at Northumberland College’s Kirkley Hall campus, he said: “There are too many sections of society here in the North East where young people just want to do what their dad did.
“This harks back to a time when men would go down the pits or work in the steel yards.
“The world has changed and there are even young people who assume they are going to live on benefits because their fathers are. We need to lift the aspirations of young people and give them a better offer.”
Lord Curry was a key member of the Lord Adonis review team that set out the economic challenges facing the region.
Their report will be used as a framework for how millions of pounds in government funding will be spent over the coming years.
The idea of creating “more and better jobs” is prevalent throughout the report.
“We need an additional 60,000 jobs in the North East to balance the economy,” said Lord Curry. “If we didn’t think this was achievable then we wouldn’t have set the target.
“But we need to combine our resources and work together across different sectors to deliver these combined goals.”
Among the English regions, the North East has the highest unemployment rate, with one in four of its young people out of work.
Lord Curry blamed the region’s reliance on the public sector, which has undergone a series of heavy cutbacks in recent years.
According to statistics, 50% of the North East’s economy is dependent on the public sector, making the region extremely vulnerable when cuts are made, said Lord Curry.
“We have a history of heavy industry, unemployment, social deprivation, low incomes and a heavy dependence on the public sector,” he said.
“If building a better economy is a challenge nationally, then for a region like ours, it’s an even bigger task.
“Replacing thousands of jobs lost in the public sector and transferring those to jobs in the private sector is a massive challenge. That is why we all need to work together.”
More than 60 organisations attended the launch of Northumberland College’s employment and skills forum at its Kirkley Hall campus, near Ponteland.
The college has developed the forum to help create better relations between private and public sector employers and education and training providers.
Stuart Cutforth, principal and chief executive at Northumberland College, said: “As a college we are mindful of local labour markets when we create our curriculum programmes.
“And we share the aims of the Adonis review, which includes achieving more jobs for the people of the region, increasing apprenticeship opportunities and the proportion of people going into higher education.
“We want our students to succeed and develop in sustained employment.”