Dear Editor, Young people in Birmingham can’t get jobs. Around 21 per cent of 16-24 year olds are claiming the Job Seekers Allowance, the highest figure among the core cities, and rising. Youth unemployment is concentrated in the poorer areas of the city – 12 times higher in South Yardley and Weoley wards than in Sutton Vesey ward.
For many school leavers apprenticeships should be the way into work. The government claims a big increase in apprenticeships, but a recent leaked government report shows that some apprentices are existing employees re-badged, and that only 16 per cent of new apprentices are under 25. We also know that many so-called apprenticeships are short-term low-skill cheap labour.
So what are the facts in Birmingham? Will someone tell us how many apprenticeships there are for young people in the city, and how many of them are new? We urgently need a public audit. We are told that grand schemes like the Local Enterprise Partnership, the city centre Enterprise Zone and the successful Regional Growth bids will create thousands of jobs. Now tell us the figures – what commitments have companies given to create proper high-skill youth apprenticeships? Or is the reality that no such commitments have been required?
And that brings into question the role of the city council.
The council, even in the context of cuts, has a lot of leverage to compel external organisations to create jobs and apprenticeships through contract compliance.
This is exactly what is proposed in a report called Supporting the Recovery published by the Transport, Environment and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee in June: “By using targeted recruitment and training clauses and training charters, obligations are to be placed on developers, contractors and commissioned service providers to provide jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities to priority groups.” If this policy was implemented vigorously it could significantly increase jobs and apprenticeships for young people.
But will it be?
The council meeting on June 14 which received the Supporting the Recovery report only approved its recommendations, which did not include any commitment to using contract compliance to create jobs and apprenticeships.
On the contrary, the thrust of the recommendations was on providers improving skills to meet employers’ demands, not on employers creating apprenticeships to develop skills. So the question is, will contract compliance be implemented and, if so, how forcefully?
Young people in the city are desperate for jobs and apprenticeships. Will local companies and the city council act now to offer them a future? Time to end the rhetoric and give us hard figures and concrete commitments.