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Younger workers need greater employment opportunity through effective public and private sector partnership

Posted on 15/11/2013 by Jamie Eaton in Category Local authorities
This week's latest Office for National Statistics labour market statistics were eagerly awaited and showed some encouraging signs of improvement.The unemployment rate fell to 7.6%, the lowest rate in almost three years. Plus, youth unemployment also showed some signs of improvement, with the number of jobless 16-to-24 year olds slightly falling by 9,000 to 965,000.

Good news, but there is still a long, long way to go. The UK labour market has become an extremely challenging place for job seekers and in particular for young people, and is likely to remain that way over the next few years. For young people who seek low-skilled, entry-level work, getting a job can seem almost impossible. A study undertaken by Joseph Rowntree Foundation last year, entitled ‘The challenges for disadvantaged young people seeking work’, looked at three contrasting areas in England and Wales found:

  • only 24 per cent of entry-level and low-skilled vacancies offered full-time or daytime work

  • over half of vacancies stating the pay offered minimum wage, and 78 per cent paid under £7 an hour, making it less likely that jobseekers could travel to these jobs?

  • Employers preferred to hire local candidates, so young jobseekers encouraged to widen their job search may not necessarily get more employment opportunity.

I doubt that this situation will have improved much in 2013. The mix of high unemployment, high competition for jobs, low pay and shorter working hours places greater need for businesses to offer young people local employment opportunities.

So it was pleasing to see, at first hand, a thriving apprenticeship scheme on a recent visit to a long-standing local authority client of Comensura, based on the north west of England. This scheme has received national recognition, including a nomination for a “Best Apprenticeship Programme” award.

At the meeting, it became clear to me that there is no silver bullet that will resolve the enormous challenge of providing more opportunity to young people. But by simply giving it focus, investing a bit of time and bringing the public and private sector together, greater opportunity can be provided.

The meeting, which was facilitate by Comensura, brought together the council and small local and multi-national recruitment agencies. At the meeting, we openly discussed and agreed some innovative ways to assist the apprentices coming to the end of their one year programme and help them tap into the wider employment market.

By having a joined up approach with the aim of not letting these apprentices go back to being unemployed, greater employment opportunity was created. There's a win-win for the apprentice - they get another job - and for the recruitment agency or one of their clients - they get a highly skilled new employee.

It was particularly pleasing to see the council and private sector businesses taking this time and working together to maximise employment opportunity for young people. In my view, this partnership approach shouldn't be restricted to 'public-to-private'. There's no reason why private sector businesses couldn't work with others, so long as there was no conflict of interest of course. But by working in partnership, we can all provide more opportunity for young people and boost the entire UK economy.​