Victoria Leggett, Education correspondent
Friday, January 25, 2013
A daring campaign launches today to ease the plight of young people by cutting youth unemployment in the Norwich area by half in just two years.
With the backing of the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News, Norwich for Jobs aims to tackle the worrying numbers of out-of-work young people, which have been stubbornly high since the recession took hold in 2008.
There are currently nearly 2,000 18 to 24-year-olds on Job Seekers’ Allowance in the Norwich Job Centre Plus area alone – covering both the Norwich City Council area and surrounding communities.
Chloe Smith, who is leading a steering group of key Norfolk figures determined to help the county’s young people, said: “I am launching this campaign because we think we can succeed in halving Norwich youth unemployment in two years, beginning this month. We are appealing to companies large, medium and small to take on a young person and help get young Norwich working.
“Norwich for Jobs is a simple campaign which aims to encourage local businesses to invest in young people, to connect young people with opportunities and to focus the community on a common goal to get young Norwich working.”
As part of the Norwich Foundation for Jobs, Miss Smith will be working alongside EDP editor Nigel Pickover, Transforming Education in Norfolk’s chief executive Dick Palmer, Julia Nix, East Anglia district manager for Job Centre Plus, and Andrew Barnes, senior partner at Howes Percival solicitors.
They want to use their influence across Norfolk to encourage businesses – including their own – to view young people as serious contenders for jobs while also offering other opportunities likely to boost a young person’s prospects.
And in doing so, they believe they can have a positive effect both on Norwich’s unemployed young people and Norfolk as a whole.
Miss Smith, who is also a government minister, said: “This is a campaign for Norwich and Norfolk. We are focusing on Norwich as an area of need, where youth unemployment is higher than the Norfolk average and, indeed, than the British average. It is a good place to start.
The city carries nearly a quarter of all the jobs in the county, so we feel it is a sensible place to locate an employment campaign.”
Youth unemployment in Norwich was at around 1,000 18 to 24-year-olds at the end of 2007 but steadily grew throughout 2008, meaning it had doubled by February 2009 - echoing the national trend which has seen youth unemployment soar to the million-mark.
The numbers peaked at 2,400 in March last year and have stubbornly remained around 2,000 – or higher – for the past four years.
Job Centre Manager Mrs Nix said she had seen young people face an increasing number of barriers since the economic problems began.
She said: “If they have gone through education and got good results, they think they have done all they can. To come out and apply for numerous jobs without any luck, they can get very despondent.
“They start to lose faith and self confidence.
“They are well-educated, hard working individuals. We have got a lot of skilled people looking for jobs. We have people with good degrees.”
The Job Centre Plus manager said employers frequently overlooked young people because they did not have enough work experience and, because of the tough economic climate, they were unwilling to take chances.
“They want someone who can walk in and be productive from day one. I can’t blame them for that,” she said. “But we want them to allow for that extra training so a young person can have a go at it.
“They haven’t got any bad habits. You can mould them to the way you want to work.”
The Jobs for Norwich campaign takes inspiration from a similar scheme run launched in London last year.
The Ladder for London Campaign has already found nearly 600 opportunities for young people in the city.
Jess Asato, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Norwich North, said: “I welcome Chloe Smith’s initiative to work with local businesses to help young people find jobs in Norwich.
“We know that young people who are unemployed for a long time find it harder to access the jobs market later in life, suffer more from depression and dented self confidence.
“At a time when 5 people are chasing every vacancy in Norwich and thousands of public sector jobs in County Hall, the NHS and other key services are being cut, it is hard to see where the jobs are coming from.”