WMCA Mayor announces new plan to tackle unemployment

Posted Wed, 10th July 2024 Author Emily Benstock Read Time 7 mins

The Skills Centre and partners Berkeley Group (St Joseph) hosted West Midlands Mayor, Richard Parker, ahead of his announcement of a flagship plan to tackle youth unemployment in the region.

We were delighted to welcome back Mayor Richard Parker to the Glasswater Locks development by Berkeley St Joseph ahead of the launch of his flagship plan for youth unemployment in the West Midlands - to create 20,000 learning and work opportunities

Working with local business to open up 20,000 work experience placements, training opportunities and apprenticeships training is just one of the key parts of the flagship youth employment plan launched by Mayor of the West Midlands, Richard Parker today (10 July).

The Mayor shared this first phase of his plan on a regional level to align with national government’s youth guarantee, at the Learning and Work Institutes’ Employment and Skills Convention held at Eastside Rooms, Birmingham.

Rising youth unemployment is a national issue, but in the West Midlands it is double the national average in some areas such as Walsall, Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

Time spent out of work under 23 is linked to lower wages and higher unemployment even 20 years on. Being out of work can also have a detrimental impact on health and, increasing the likelihood of taking up smoking, becoming obese or abusing alcohol, which in turn can impact on the chances of finding and staying in work.

The initial phase of the West Midlands youth employment plan sets out the offer to young people to ensure they have the best possible start to their working lives through meaningful advice, support services and pathways, in addition to a commitment to creating 20,000 new work experience, training placements and apprenticeships by working with partners and businesses across the region.

The offer will also include:

  • Pre-employment training in the region's fastest growing sectors and green skills, with a guaranteed interview, like the Path 2 Apprenticeship programme underway
  • Dedicated work coach support for young people who are out of work
  • Fully-funded training, up to level 3, to help young people develop the skills needed for work
  • Access to mental and physical health support, including talking therapies.
  • Building on existing youth hubs to provide all young people with access to a range of support and services, including debt and careers advice.

Welcoming businesses, stakeholders and partners at the conference the Mayor laid out his initial phase of the plan and said: “It was the West Midlands that offered me my greatest chance to get on in life when aged 16 I left school, unsure of my future.”

“I want the West Midlands to be the region that gives young people the best possible start in life, with good quality jobs, the support they need to feel ready for work and the ability to progress in their careers – this is why we are launching the initial phase of our West Midlands youth plan – our regional approach to delivering the national government’s youth guarantee.

“This plan will focus on skills and employment and will include work coach support, pre-employment training in growing sectors with a guaranteed interview, as well as fully funded training up to level three and access to debt and careers advice.

“I call upon businesses and learning providers in the region to continue their work with us to open up a further 20,000 new training or work placements.”

“Let’s work together to make the West Midlands a model for the nation by investing in our youth and therefore investing in our future.”

“We are already supporting young unemployed people get into apprenticeships with our Path 2 Apprenticeship programme in which we have invested £7.5m to support 3,300 young people over three years.’

Jon Howlin, CEO of The Skills Centre said: "The Mayor’s youth employment plan aligns closely with our mission to transform lives by bringing local opportunities to local people. Collaboration between employers, training providers, and local authorities is essential for delivering relevant skills training that meets this goal.

The CITB reports that 35,600 additional construction workers will be needed in the West Midlands by 2028. Addressing youth unemployment in the region is crucial to closing the construction skills gap, and we are committed to playing a key role in this effort. We are pleased that the Mayor supports programmes helping locals access job opportunities.

Together, we can create a brighter future for the West Midlands, ensuring young people have the best start in life and the skills needed for prosperous careers."

Rob Perrins, Chief Executive of Berkeley Group, said: “We are proud to support the youth unemployment plan for the West Midlands. Social mobility is a key priority for our business and, like the Mayor, we believe every young person should have the opportunities and support they need to secure a good job and a rewarding career.

“This far-reaching plan will improve the life chances for many more young people across the region and we look forward to playing our part alongside our fantastic local partners including the WMCA, Birmingham City Council and The Skills Centre.”

The CITB reports that 35,600 additional construction workers will be needed in the West Midlands by 2028. Addressing youth unemployment in the region is crucial to closing the construction skills gap, and we are committed to playing a key role in this effort.

We are pleased that the Mayor supports programmes helping locals access job opportunities. Together, we can create a brighter future for the West Midlands, ensuring young people have the best start in life and the skills needed for prosperous careers."

Jake Collins is a young learner, who met the Mayor last week at the Adult Learning Awards and shared his story telling him more about his poignant learning journey into employment in healthcare.

Jake is a shining example of a young unemployed person who has turned his life around into a good quality sustainable job with the support of the West Midlands Combined Authority’s adult education and training programmes.

As a full time carer for his mom from the age of 13, Jake missed out on getting formal education leaving school with just one GCSE.

Nicholas Bailey, Jake Collins and Mayor of the West Midlands, Richard Parker

After sadly losing his mom aged 20 and despite feeling isolated, Jake was encouraged by the job centre to join a Sector-Based Work Academy Programme (SWAP) with training at Sandwell College, which led to him securing a full-time role as Ward Service Officer at Sandwell Hospital.

His success was acknowledged by the Mayor last week, when he won an Adult Learning Award for Step into Learning after being nominated by Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust

Jake, now 21, from West Bromwich, said: “I did this course because I wanted to do something with my life and make my mom proud. I knew I wanted to work in the hospital because I had spent so much time there with my mom and wanted to help people.

“Having gained a Level 1 certificate in Health and Safety, I was offered a full-time role as a Ward Service Officer. I am so much more confident now. I feel like my life has changed more than I ever thought it would. It is good to be in work as I have a nice group of people to work with and feel like I have a purpose every day. I want to progress in the job and take on more courses and qualifications to help me.”

Emma Dalton, widening participation project manager at Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, said: “Jake had been a carer for his mum from the age of 13. He missed out on formal education, social interaction and left school with one GCSE. After the death of his mum, Jake felt lost. All he knew was that he wanted to make his mum proud. Jake’s line manager is so impressed with how he is progressing. Jake provides guest speaking sessions to motivate others and has recently attended a committee meeting to share his story with senior directors within the Trust. Jake has overcome so many challenges to be where he is, and we couldn’t be prouder.”