A brighter future for young people and our economy
By Joanne Roney OBE – Chief Executive of Wakefield Council and member of the LEP’s Employment and Skills Panel
As students across Leeds City Region receive their exam results, many young people will be pondering their future and which route will give them the best hope of fulfilling their dreams.
With competition for jobs still fierce as the UK recovers from recession, this generation of young people – arguably more than any other – needs the support of parents, teachers, government and businesses to ensure they reach their full potential.
Creating meaningful work opportunities for young people is central to our plan for economic growth in Leeds City Region. In 2012 we signed a City Deal with government, setting out our ambition of a ‘NEET-free’ City Region where all young people have the opportunity to create a prosperous future for themselves. We are making good progress: the latest available evidence from the Department of Work and Pensions shows that youth unemployment in Leeds City Region has fallen faster than the UK as a whole, with 41% fewer young people now claiming Jobs Seekers Allowance than in April 2013. We need to go further and faster, however, to ensure all of our young people benefit from a return to growth.
One of the key recommendations of a report into youth unemployment published last week by the think-tank, Centre for Cities, is that effective local partnerships – between councils, schools, skills providers and businesses – are critical to providing the right support for young people taking their first steps onto the career ladder. Partnership working is fundamental to everything the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) does, but it’s through our employment and skills work that it’s paying particular dividends.
We are working tirelessly, with our councils and a range of other local partners, to give young people in Leeds City Region the best possible start to their working lives. This begins with making the right career decisions so we are working closely with schools and colleges in our region to provide better quality information, advice and guidance for young people using the latest job intelligence on career options that offer the best employment prospects and good wages.
Working with businesses is also critical. The LEP’s Apprenticeship Hubs Programme for example, run in collaboration with our partner councils, has been developed to make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular to take on an apprentice and over 1,000 SMEs have benefitted from Apprenticeship Hub support so far.
The programme is also helping young people and their parents navigate the complex array of options available after GCSEs or A-Levels, by providing free and impartial information about whether an apprenticeship could offer an alternative career path to university. As someone who followed a work-based training route myself, and has progressed from a trainee to Chief Executive running an organisation that employs over 11,000 people, I know first-hand that this can be a route to developing higher level skills and a great career. I was fortunate to work for public and private sector organisations who valued investment in the skills of their workforce, allowing me to study and work to achieve a professional qualification and an MBA.
The young people now embarking on their careers thanks to support from our Apprenticeships Hubs are certainly seeing the benefits of being able to earn while they learn relevant skills that will equip them for a fast-paced 21st Century job market. The businesses that employ them are also growing and developing as a result of the motivation, energy and fresh ideas their apprentices bring.
We want all young people in Leeds City Region to have these opportunities, so the LEP, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, and local councils will continue to work together with government, businesses and other partners to boost young people’s prospects yet further.
In the meantime, as young people in our region celebrate the culmination of many years’ hard work and look forward to beginning a new and exciting chapter in their lives, help is on hand to ensure they can create a bright future that’s full of possibilities.
Wakefield apprentice, Marc: “I’m starting to earn my living”
Marc Saxton, 17, is in the first year of his advanced apprenticeship at The Ridings shopping centre in Wakefield. He secured his post with help from the Wakefield Council Apprenticeship Hub.
Marc says apprenticeships are a good route to go down: “You learn a trade and it’s good for life. You are starting to earn your living. I’ve picked up so many skills on the job already”
Ridings Centre Manager, Barbara Wilson, who approached the Apprenticeship Hub for free, impartial advice, says apprenticeships are also good for business: “Marc is our first apprentice and it’s been easy all the way. Introducing an apprentice is good for everyone – it keeps the team sharp.
An edited version of this article can be found in Tuesday's Yorkshire Post.