Cllr Julie Dore and her team at Sheffield City Council have got some awful decisions to take over the weeks to come. Like all Labour councils they’re being hit disproportionately hard by the government’s cuts. I was in town last week with Labour’s Youth Jobs’ Taskforce research team to meet Angela Smith MP and hear how Labour’s leaders are fighting for Sheffield’s young people.
Amidst all the tough decisions, Julie and Cllr Leigh Brammall, cabinet member for business, skills and development, are putting in place a revolution in back to work services for young people. The Jobs for Youth scheme pulls together policy that identifies young people at risk of becoming unemployed, helping them prepare for employment, and encouraging employers to create apprenticeships.
Sheffield City Council has worked with schools, colleges and training providers to develop a risk of NEETs indicator that identifies potential NEETs. A new partnership, Sheffield Futures is then tasked with the job of helping young people prepare for the future. Community Youth Teams work to bring these young people back into education or employment. They work within schools and communities to identify those needing support and to engage with disconnected young people.
But a second partnership, Ambition Sheffield then kicks in. This scheme provides training programmes that boost numeracy and literacy schemes, or pre-apprenticeships, which improve employability. The final piece of the jigsaw is Opportunity Sheffield: the Council works with employers to boost the number of apprenticeships and jobs offered to young people.
Bringing together the council’s business support and engagement work, the team is also identifying where businesses might be interested in taking on new apprentices – and crucially a £1 million investment from the hard-pressed council into areas such as housing and highways is providing wage subsidies for 200 young people into apprenticeships for the future.
Under the City Deal, 4,000 apprenticeships are expected to be set up in SMEs in the region. But the Council also brokers 200 apprenticeships for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The directors of M+G Olympic Products, where I started the day with two new apprentices, are very clear about just how successful the scheme has become: ‘Frankly this is a model for how every council should do it. Without it, we’d have not taken on new young people’.
The city has put the fight for jobs at the heart of its City Deal negotiations with government – and has bold plans for the future. Its yet another inspiring story of how Labour councils and leaders all over Britain are leading the fight for youth jobs. It’s an inspiration we’re determined to learn from.
Liam Byrne is the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary