Birmingham lines up £15m fund to tackle youth unemployment
The ambitious scheme was put together by the city council and aims to tap into £15 million of government and local authority funding to create 1,000 apprenticeships and full time jobs.
Firms will be offered annual subsidies of almost £4,000 for each unemployed 18 to 24-year-old they take on, and the project has the backing of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) as well as the CBI and Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.
City council leader Sir Albert Bore said the intention was to break the scourge of youth unemployment in Birmingham, where 3,000 young people have been claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance for more than a year.
The proposal has emerged from a commission set up by Sir Albert to investigate ways of getting young people into work when he took over as city council leader in May 2012.
Sir Albert (Lab Ladywood) said he was issuing a “call to arms” to firms across Birmingham, asking them to get involved and offer jobs to young people.
“I am very excited because this is a joint effort with many pertners coming together. We are very confident that we will be able to create something in the order of 1,000 jobs for long-term unemployed people in Birmingham,” he added.
The council will put £2 million into the scheme and the pot is expected to be swollen by £1.5 million from the National Apprenticeship Service, £2.2 million from the DWP wage subsidy scheme and extra funding from Jobcentre Plus’s Flexible Support Fund
Birmingham Voluntary Service Council has bid for £7.5 million from the Big Lottery Fund and if successful will donate the money to the partnership fund.
Jobs created will be targeted at parts of Birmingham where youth unemployment is highest, typically the inner city wards of Washwood Heath, Aston, Sparkbrook, Lozells and East Handsworth and Bordesley Green. More than 25 per cent of 18-24-year-olds in Washwood Heath are unemployed, compared to a national average of 7.5 per cent
The initiative is being backed by Network Rail and it is expected that some of the new jobs for young people will be at the New Street Station/John Lewis development in 2015.
The commission has calculated that youth unemployment in Birmingham will cost over £1 billion from 2012 and 2022 in terms of the cost of paying benefits and the drain on the city’s economy.
The council is also pressing ahead with plans to create a Birmingham Baccalaureate “to ensure that the education young people get equips them for the world of work”. A pilot programme is to be launched in September, and the new exam with an emphasis on literacy, numeracy and communication skills could eventually be rolled out to all city secondary schools.
The alignment of public and voluntary sector budgets to create substantial funding to combat unemployment is believed to be a first for Britain. The scheme owes much to the previous Labour Government’s Total Place project, which encouraged public bodies to pool budgets and work more closely together.