Without special attention, young people are likely to be most at risk of becoming distant from the labour market.
This in turn has the potential to cause significant long term social and economic difficulties.
This Government is committed to supporting and helping our young people before this happens, particularly through the education and training provision available to young people.
As Minister Quinn has mentioned, we have done incredible work in Ireland over recent years, to reduce the rate of early school leaving.
Over 90% of all students now stay in school to complete the Leaving Cert.
But inevitably, there will be some young people who leave school early.
The key offer for these young people is the Youthreach programme.
Youthreach is directed at unemployed young early school leavers aged 15-20, and offers participants the opportunity to identify and pursue viable options within adult life.
There are almost 6,000 places available in Youthreach and Community Training Centres.
You have heard about some of the initiatives we have developed to tackle youth unemployment.
However, in order to get the best out of these initiatives on a sustained basis, there is a need to change how the education and training system is organised to deliver these initiatives.
The further education and training sector is undergoing major structural reform.
This reform represents possibly the most significant change in the Further Education sector in over 70 years.
In reforming our structures, we in further education and training have been taking a hard look at ourselves.
We found lots of good practice but also a lack of national strategic direction, gaps in data and information, and a disjointed pattern of local provision.
Improvements were also needed in how programmes are aligned with the needs of the labour market.
The second half of last year saw the establishment of 16 Education and Training Boards to replace 33 VECs, and the establishment of SOLAS to bring strategic direction to the sector.
By the middle of this year, all former FÁS training provision will have been transferred to the Education and Training Boards.
One of the key tasks for SOLAS will be the development and implementation of a national five year strategy for the further education and training sector – to be submitted to myself and Minister Quinn by the end of March.
The job of this strategy will be to improve the experiences and outcomes for all learners who engage with further education and training.
This requires the systematic evaluation of programmes and courses against their specific objectives to focus investment on those programmes which deliver best against their objectives.
The Education and Training Boards will play a key role in ensuring the provision of 21st century high-quality Further Education and Training programmes.
Programmes which are integrated, flexible, value-for-money and responsive to the needs of learners, and the requirements of a changed and changing economy.
All of this is critical for our young people, and particularly for young unemployed people.
Ultimately none of this reform works, if it doesn’t work on the ground.
A key relationship will be that between the Intreo office, the local ETB and local Enterprise.
We need to build on the talents, interests and capabilities of young unemployed people - good quality provision of information, referral procedures, guidance and course recruitment is needed to do the best we can for them.
We also need to liaise closely with Industry at a regional level to determine what skills will be required for the jobs of the future and to collaborate with industry in facilitating young people to acquire these skills.
These relationships are being built on the ground between these new structures.
Along with Ministers Quinn and Burton, and officials from both Departments, I will be focussing over the coming months on helping to facilitate and guide this process.
We are making progress on unemployment and on youth unemployment.
The elements of the Youth Guarantee identified at European level are a confirmation that the initiatives we have in place are the right ones to deliver for our young people.
Now we need to deeply embed the structures and practices to make sure they deliver for the long term.