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Midlands presents a mixed picture for youth unemployment

01 September 2016

A new survey has found stark variations in youth unemployment levels across the West Midlands which, it is claimed, could hit local economic growth.

According to the survey – by EY in association with independent charity the EY Foundation – the West Midlands has an overall youth unemployment rate of 15.5 per cent, which is around the UK average (14.4 per cent).

But within this there are massive variations – at one end of the scale is Wolverhampton, which has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the country at 27 per cent, and at the other is Coventry, which has one of the lowest (8.2 per cent).

Birmingham also has a high rate (22.5 per cent) – but neighbouring Solihull (11.0 per cent) is doing much better.

Sara Fowler (pictured), senior partner at EY in the Midlands, says: “Youth unemployment rates have fallen from the peaks we saw during the recession, when 40 per cent of the UK’s 16-17 year olds were facing unemployment. However, a stubbornly high number of young people remain excluded from the labour market, which could be further exacerbated by a period of weaker economic growth in a Brexit environment.

“Looking at the West Midlands, the region has a higher than average youth unemployment rate (15.5 per cent), but what stands out are the wide-ranging variations in rates between the region’s biggest cities – with Wolverhampton one of the highest (27 per cent) and Coventry one of the lowest (8.2 per cent).

“These regional differences underline the importance of a coordinated response from government and business to tackle the issues locally as well as nationally. This could potentially be accompanied by more devolution of skills and education to the Midlands Engine.”

Chamber skills expert David Tomalin said: “Cities like Wolverhampton have been hard hit having seen some high profile business failures recently including the closure of BHS, redundancies at Lloyds Bank and further back, the closure of the Goodyear tyre factory.

“Employers across the Midlands need to realise that they need to develop the skills of the incoming workforce and that they do not come equipped with all of the skills required.

“The upside to this developmental approach is that employers can shape the employee to their needs and ways of working. Work experience, traineeships and apprenticeships are all ways to enable a ‘hands on’ approach to learning in the workplace, designed to suit the employers’ needs. We should not generalise about young people, many who have skills and talents that may add value to your business.”

Maryanne Matthews, chief executive of EY Foundation, a charity set up to help young people who face barriers in finding work, said: “Maturing workforces, demands for new skills in a knowledge economy, and a projected growth in the number of high-skilled jobs over the next few years, means that the need for employers to diversify talent has become a business imperative.

“Flexible and dynamic businesses rely on continuously attracting new skills and experience and yet youth unemployment remains a significant problem in the UK.

“It is imperative that UK employers open their doors to invest in developing the skills of young people. By offering paid work experience opportunities to young people, this could lead to jobs in the future, reduce unemployment rates and help to address the UK skills gap. The more that employers play an active role in developing young people, the more we can help every young person to have better working prospects now and in the future.”

One of the biggest problem areas, according to the survey, is the decline in the number of

young people employed in manufacturing.According to the report, youth employment levels across the UK declined by 166,000 from 2004 to 2015, with the biggest fall seen in the manufacturing sector, with a decline of 109,000 (28 per cent) over the same period.

However, in the last decade, construction (25 per cent) and financial and business services (4 per cent) have also reduced their employment of young people.

 

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