City council leader Sir Albert Bore announced today that he is setting up a Youth Unemployment Commission to investigate why more than 14,000 people aged 18 to 24 are out of work, and to come up with initiatives to improve skills and create jobs.
The youth unemployment rate across Birmingham is almost 30 per cent for the age group 16 to 24, the worst of any major city in England, and has remained stubbornly high for decades.
The commission is backed by Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne, the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Brian Carr, Chief Executive of Birmingham Voluntary Service Council and Jas Bains, Chief Executive of Ashram Housing Association.
Sir Albert has also asked third sector leaders the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) to identify what organisations are already doing to tackle youth unemployment in the city. ACEVO will examine the scale of the issue in Birmingham and the key problems and opportunities.
ACEVO is expected to bid for funding from a £100 million Big Lottery Fund pot set up to tackle youth unemployment in England.
Sir Albert said: “We simply cannot go on with thousands of our young people leaving school and not going into work for months and years at a time. Like everyone, they need challenge and purpose in their own lives and to be able to contribute to the society in which they live.
“If a young person gets from 16 to 24 years-old without skills and employment, then there is every chance that they will join those long-term unemployed, unable to help themselves and our economy. And we all need to make Birmingham a powerful engine of employment and entrepreneurism.”
He said many projects already existed in Birmingham to create youth apprentices and jobs, but the initiatives were not co-ordinated and it was difficult for employers to access information.
“There is a lack of connectivity and we have got to get things joined up. This issue will not be solved simply by throwing money about, but we need to ensure money that is available is put behind a collective agenda to address the problem,” he added.
Sir Albert is talking to schools and colleges, the NHS, Jobcentre Plus, the LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership), private sector employers such as Carillion and the Big Lottery Fund about being part of the Birmingham Youth Unemployment Commission.
Sir Albert added: “We will set a series of targets and programmes, agreed with partners, and will monitor and track delivery. It is our ambition to lead the way in Birmingham for eradicating long term unemployment amongst our young people.”
ACEVO published a national report ‘Youth Unemployment: the crisis we cannot afford’ earlier this year, identifying Birmingham as one of 20 youth unemployment hot spots in the country.
Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, announced the Government would take up one of the main themes of the report to give the ‘hot spots’ preferential access to wage subsidies.
Mr Clegg said the Government would choose 20 local authority areas in Britain, where it would bring forward eligibility for the wage subsidy from nine months of unemployment to six. The wage subsidy offers employers a payment of £2,275 for taking on a long term unemployed person aged between 16 and 24.