Press: Give us the tools to tackle youth jobs crisis, say councils

by Liam Byrne | 31.01.13 | in: Westminster, Young people

Give us the tools to tackle youth jobs crisis, say councils

Labour councils demand new freedoms to fight for youth jobs as Work Programme fails young people

 Labour today called for new freedoms for councils to tackle the youth jobs crisis as analysis of the government’s Work Programme showed the programme found jobs for just 3.3% of young people.

Labour’s call came at the first summit of its Youth Jobs Taskforce, chaired by Ed Miliband in Birmingham. The Taskforce brings together the leaders of the 10 councils where youth unemployment is highest.

The summit will review a report from Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Liam Byrne showing how Labour councils are beginning to revolutionise the bridge from school to work for young people in areas where youth unemployment is worst.

The report shows:

  • There are still almost a million young people out of work – yet the flagship Work Programme has a success rate of just 3.35% for young people.
  • Labour Councils are taking radical steps to build a new bridge from school to local jobs, reinventing the Future Jobs Fund, establishing UCAS style clearing houses for apprenticeships offers to young people, and creating Apprenticeship Agencies that place young people into new opportunities with local SMEs.
  • Council leaders widely feel held back by a ‘statist’ Department for Work & Pensons which is unable to innovate locally.
  • Council leaders now want new freedoms to develop plan that fit for purpose for their local economies; a simpler funding regime that joins up skills and jobs support for unemployed young people, and more opportunities to involve employers and colleges in schools advice and guidance provision

Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Liam Byrne said,

“As Government schemes fail, Labour’s local councils are beginning to commandeer the task of getting our young people into work.

“All over Britain, Labour’s council leaders are refusing to stand by and watch young people join the dole queues. They’re taking charge and building a completely new bridge from the class-room to a job.

“Labour will not stand by and watch this government abandon a generation to the scrap heap. Just because we’re not in government doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference. All over Britain its now Labour councils leading the fight to give our young people the chance to work.”


  1. 1.     This government is failing Britain’s young people

There are almost a million young people out of work, but this government’s welfare to work schemes are failing. New figures published today by Labour shows that Ministers flagship Work Programme has got just 3.35% of 18-24 year olds on the scheme into a sustained job.

Only 5,920 young people have achieved a job outcome under the Work Programme so far, of the 177,000 who participated in the programme.

  1. 2.     Labour Councils are building a new bridge for young people from schools to local jobs

 In five key ways Labour authorities are leading the way in the fight against youth unemployment:

  1. Stopping problems happening in the first place. Cities like Sheffield are transforming the way they identify young people at risk of graduating to a life of unemployment, so they can target special, additional support.
  2. Getting young people job ready. Councils like Bradford are building Industrial Centres of Excellence, small schools of 300 students aged 14-19 with enterprise skills, paid work experience and business-led qualifications – all tailored to what’s actually available in the local jobs market.
  3. Taking apprenticeships directly into schools. Manchester is revolutionising access to apprenticeships with its Apprentice Ambassadors and a new UCAS-style clearing house to match students with apprenticeship offers well before they leave school, conditional on making the grades.
  4. Connecting SMEs to young people. Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield have created Apprenticeship Agencies, organising training and work opportunities for literally thousands of apprentices with their cities’ diverse business base of SMEs.
  5. Reinventing the Future Jobs Fund. Wales, Glasgow and Birmingham are reinventing the highly successful Future Jobs Fund to make sure that young people out of work are given paid opportunities as a spring-board into local careers.

DWP is getting in the way

Many of the Councils we met with reported poor and deteriorating relationships with the DWP nationally, though relationships with local jobcentres were often strong. It was felt that there was too little consultation by the DWP before nationally mandated programmes were stream-rollered through.

The DWP was often seen to be setting policy and commissioning contracts without regard to local needs. The result was that Councils’ employment programmes were often left to fill in important gaps. DWP was also considered to be too inflexible when it came to issues surrounding data sharing, which prevented local public services from being joined up.

Councils’ views on DWP

“DWP has been unwilling to engage locally, often embarking on nationally mandated initiatives with little or no consultation locally.”

“It seems that DWP is increasingly delivering an agenda determined in Whitehall with little or no regard to local circumstances.”

“Provision designed at the national level often makes incorrect assumptions about a given shape and size of local infrastructure.”

“A nationally driven process and inability to share data [have] meant that we couldn’t join up local public services to support people to achieve a better outcome.”

Councils call for more powers to tackle Britain’s youth job crisis

  • The freedom to deliver a plan that is fit for purpose in their areas. Different places have different economics. Businesses need different things. And the precise causes of youth unemployment vary. Skills needs may differ. The size of the challenge varies. Councils therefore need the freedom to tailor action – like job readiness training – to what’s needed in the local economy.
  • A simpler funding regime that joins up skills and jobs support for unemployed young people.  The current system is too complicated, and does not align the provision of skills with local employers’ needs.
  • The opportunity to involve employers and colleges in schools advice and guidance provision. This means that students can learn much earlier about the full range of local opportunities and what employers need.

A copy of the report Labour Fights Back can be downloaded here.

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