Last week, this government ran out of places to hide. Two reports from DWP made undeniably grim reading, not just for hapless Ministers but for the millions out of work they are leaving to fend for themselves.
Elsewhere, the news for Britain’s unemployed remains grim. Long-term unemployment is still rising. Last month the claimant count rose. The Youth Contract is failing to make an impact despite the shocking truth that 40% of those out of work are under 25. That’s one of the highest rates in the West. Despite that badge of shame, this Government shows no sign of lifting a finger to help the jobless generation they are creating. Between June 2011 and May 2012, only 2.3% of young jobseekers who participated in the Work Programme managed to enter sustained employment. That’s less than half of the Work Programme’s minimum performance standards.
As the party of work there is simply no way we can stand by and watch this happen. We have to act and act now. That’s why we launched Labour’s Youth Jobs Taskforce; a new alliance of the council leaders of the top ten youth unemployment hotspots, with leaders and experts from business, enterprise, civil society, the unions and academia. Across the country those Labour authorities are now leading the fighting back for youth jobs.
We’re often guilty in our party of forgetting to celebrate the great work of our local authorities. So in the coming weeks I’ll be reporting back to Labourlist as the Youth Jobs Taskforce visits Labour Britain as we work to make sure the best ideas anywhere become Labour’s approach everywhere. Our first stop was Liverpool, just two days after the latest figures confirmed youth unemployment is still rocketing across the North West.
We started with some of the apprentices at St John’s Gardens, now in work thanks to the programme that Labour has put in place. Their firm, Glendales, has worked with Liverpool City Council and Myserscough College to take on over 35 apprentices since 2007. Here there’s a real commitment to motivating young people and helping them get on. Experienced employees act as mentors and the apprentices are encouraged to train for Duke of Edinburgh awards, because it builds their team-working skills.
This is happening across the city. Under Mayor Joe Anderson, Deputy Mayor Paul Brant and their team, Liverpool’s approach sees every 16 or 17 year old NEET guaranteed either a training place or an apprenticeship, a move that will benefit 800 young people.
When Labour took control of the Council, Labour Liverpool promised to create 100 new apprentices in our first year. They have already beaten that total, creating 650 apprenticeships in their first year, and they’ll be raising that figure to 1,300 over the next four years.
What’s more, Labour Liverpool are routinely insisting that the Council’s partners prioritise local young people when they’re recruiting, and urging them to take on apprentices so young people can gain the skills and training needed to get work.
Both the Council and the Community College work closely with employers, providing business development support while encouraging companies to take on apprentices. That helps reduce the risk to small employers of taking on young people as apprentices. Liverpool Community College is also making a big difference – it has arranged 11,000 apprenticeships with the private sector.
Liverpool was a great place to start for Labour’s Youth Jobs Taskforce. It’s living proof that leading councils are fighting back against youth unemployment today and it’s about time Ministers followed their lead.
Let me know below the line what you think about Joe Anderson’s approach. Next stop: Sheffield.
Liam Byrne is the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions