Councils continue to play a key role in supporting young people and employers with jobs and training during the pandemic.
With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and national restrictions, it’s no surprise that the latest labour market statistics show a steep rise in unemployment – with young people continuing to bear the brunt of the worsening job market.
While the overall unemployment rate is 5 per cent, for 18 to 24-year-olds it is 13.2 per cent, rising to 25.6 per cent for those aged 16-17. Young people will find it tough to compete in a crowded job market against the newly unemployed with more experience and relevant skills.
The LGA highlighted the plight of our future workforce in ‘Re-thinking youth participation for the present and next generation: education to employment’, published last October.
In it, we called on the Government to give councils and combined authorities greater powers and resources to enable them to effectively support young people into education, employment or training.
During these difficult times, councils have responded with agility and innovation to meet the needs of young people, and are committed to tackling the issues they face locally.
For example, Hampshire County Council’s Employment and Skills Hub (ESH), with a dedicated team of six, is working hard to engage with employers to source work experience and careers fairs for young people.
The ESH has been vital in ensuring coherent employer engagement around incentives for apprenticeships, Apprenticeship Levy transfers, traineeship bonuses, and the Government’s Kickstart Scheme, to secure physical and virtual work experience-based pathways into businesses for young people in Hampshire. Since March 2020, the ESH has found 53 young people long-term work experience placements and has assisted more than 80 businesses with COVID-19 risk assessments.
Exploring virtual and digital engagement for schools in Hampshire has resulted in a range of videos, including 63 careers fairs, 11 ‘guess my job’ videos, and 12 ‘career talks’ that the ESH can share with partners, ensuring school children and young adults continue to get high-quality careers information and guidance.
Additionally, ESH has created 56 employment and skills plans for construction developments since the hub started in 2017, leading to 427 work experiences, 461 job opportunities, and 266 careers information advice and guidance engagements for individuals and young people.
Construction has been a key sector in maintaining opportunities for young people throughout lockdown because of its outdoor nature and the sector’s quick enaction of COVID-19 secure work practices.
Hampshire County Council is also participating in Kickstart as a ‘gateway’ organisation, supporting employers who cannot commit to 30 Kickstart placements to participate in the scheme through the ESH. More than 50 businesses have registered their interest in providing 90 Kickstart placements.
Many other councils and combined authorities have also responded swiftly to local needs by forging partnerships, adapting provision, and delivering advice and support at pace to young people.
For example, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, in collaboration with Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and the Burberry Foundation, have launched FutureGoals Spotlight and Remote resources (see www.futuregoals.co.uk/spotlight and www.futuregoals.co.uk/remote), a series of at-home teaching resources providing careers guidance, skills and experience.
As we look ahead, local authorities must be included as the key partner that moves us out of this crisis. The importance of our role in supporting an inclusive economic recovery needs to be recognised nationally. We can then take our proper place in establishing and delivering the route map towards recovery, ensuring today’s young people don’t become a lost ‘pandemic’ generation.