More than 1,000 unemployed young people in the West Midlands will be offered work placements in a bid to cut youth unemployment in the region.
The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and work-placement charity Movement to Work (MtW) launched the placement programme today (May 21) at an event in Birmingham.
Employers including the British Army, BT, BUPA, Diageo, Marks & Spencer, Starbucks University Hospital Birmingham and the WMCA have already committed to provide 1,000 work placements for young people – and the WMCA is now encouraging businesses across the West Midlands to get involved.
Jawad Bashir, 24, from Small Heath, has a degree in chemical engineering but struggled to find a job due to a lack of work experience. A work placement helped Jawad find a job - now he's backing the introduction of 1,000 work placements for young people in the West Midlands.
The WMCA has teamed up with MtW to deliver the national pilot of the Government-led Transition to Work project – which aims to support unemployed young people into work.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “Youth unemployment has proven to be a stubborn problem across the UK, but here in the West Midlands we are pioneering new approaches to help unemployed young people get into work.
“Movement to Work offers young people the chance to gain valuable work experience, with the opportunity to earn a job or apprenticeship at the end of their placement.
“We want to ensure young people have amazing opportunities to build their life here in the West Midlands, and this programme will aim to help 1,000 young adults get their foot firmly on the career ladder.”
The ‘Aspirations for All’ launch for the project took place at the Prince’s Trust in Birmingham today, with over 30 employers committing to provide more than 1,000 placements.
The placements, which could lead on to job opportunities, are arranged through MtW and are designed to support young people into meaningful employment. They give young people the opportunity to build their skills and confidence, develop ambition and show potential employers what they are capable of.
MtW and its coalition of employers are working in partnership with the WMCA, 18 local authorities, four local enterprise partnerships, training providers and youth-outreach charities to create new employment opportunities for young people across the region.
Youth employment remains a challenge in the UK. The national youth unemployment rate was 11.8% in February 2019, compared with 4% for the whole population. In the West Midlands, 13.1% (14,000) of young people are currently unemployed*.
MtW is already showing that the work-placement approach is making a difference. The charity has delivered more than 80,000 work placements throughout the UK over the last five years, and focusses mainly on young people who are not in education, employment or training (known as NEET). Over 50% of those who have completed a Movement to Work placement have gone into employment or back into education.
Jawad Bashir left university after doing a chemical engineering degree. After graduating, the 24-year-old, from Small Heath, looked for a data analyst role, but employers wanted one to two years of experience before considering candidates – so Jawad found himself stuck in the ‘no experience, no job’ cycle.
However, while looking at a jobs website, Jawad came across Movement to Work and its placement schemes. He was offered a three-week placement with BT. The three weeks comprised team-building and workshops about the world of work and, importantly, some real work experience in data analysis.
After the placement, Jawad found a job at Flomatik, the telecoms network services company. He will be joining the BT graduate scheme in September 2019.
Jawad said: “The Movement to Work scheme at BT was a catalyst for career; the mentoring, work experience and other activities really enabled me to come out of my shell and show my skills, the sort of things that don’t come out on a CV. I know how to express myself now. After progressing from BT’s graduate scheme I want to progress into management, it’s a real possibility now.”
James Ashall, Movement to Work chief executive, said: “Employers across our network are piloting a number of schemes in the West Midlands, covering multiple sectors including retail, construction, digital, healthcare and hospitality. With a concrete commitment to provide more than 1,000 work placements from local employers, it really demonstrates how working in collaboration with local authorities and other partners makes a difference.
“We have worked with these employers on a national basis; not only do they know that supporting young people into work is the right thing to do, they know that it’s good for their business. These young people are incredibly loyal and mentoring them can be a real morale boost for your existing staff. It’s a win-win situation, and we hope that through these new regional partnerships, we can help some of those in greatest need of support.”
One of the first employers to sign up, BT, has committed to provide 150 placements.
Amy Caton, work-ready programme lead at BT, explained: “Lack of experience is often reported by young people as a barrier to employment, and once in work they risk being left behind through a lack of vital tech skills. At BT, our employability programmes are built around digital skills training and one-to-one coaching, providing young people with skills and confidence to thrive in the workplaces of the future. Lots of BT colleagues get involved and they report a huge sense of reward from sharing their skills and knowledge.
“Over 4,000 young people across the UK have joined one of our programmes since 2014. Last year over 130 people joined us for a work placement in the West Midlands. We’re delighted that the majority progressed into employment or education, and we’re looking forward to working with more young people in the year ahead.”
Movement to Work is now looking for more employers to sign up to offer work placements for 18 to 30-year-olds in the region. For more information, please contact Rory Allbutt at Movement to Work (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Philip Tillman at the WMCA (email@example.com).
* Percentages taken from NEET Statistics Annual Brief: 2018, England: published on gov.uk National Statistics website, 28 February 2019