Young people from Dudley are to benefit from a package of support to give them access to training and career opportunities, thanks to a new youth hub in the Merry Hill Centre.
The hub at Black Country Skills Shop, which is part of Dudley College of Technology, offers practical advice and support to young people aged 16-29 who are unemployed or at risk of losing their job, or leaving school, college or university.
Services available to young people include advice from work coaches, links with local employers, access to valuable six-month work placements through the Government’s Kickstart scheme, and other opportunities such as apprenticeships and full-time study.
From left: Jennie Davies, DWP, Jonathan Poole Merry Hill Centre manager, Jemma Ettle, Alison Marshall, Dudley College of Technology, Cllr Ruth Buttery, Dudley Council and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, Helene Dearn, Group Director West Midlands – DWP and Councillor Ruth Buttery officially launched the Youth Hub this afternoon (Friday July 9).
This is one of eight Youth Hubs being set up in the region as part of the Youth Offer that the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has developed with Jobcentre Plus, local authorities, the voluntary sector and local employers.
The hub brings together partners to join up local employment and training services, so that young people can gain the support they need in one place to access jobs and skills opportunities.
It has been set up by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) working in partnership with the WMCA, Dudley Council and Dudley College of Technology.
Mayor Andy Street said: “Sadly we know that young people are being hardest hit as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with many of the sectors they work in having been severely affected by the lockdown.
“So we must do everything we can to help our young people get back into work as quickly as possible if they have lost their jobs, as well as helping those who are looking to take their first step into employment. Youth Hubs are a great example of how we are working with our partners to do exactly that.
“Dudley Youth Hub will make a huge difference to the lives of local young people, including through mentoring, talent matching, work experience and targeted help to make sure every young person has the skills needed to get a job.”
During the official opening the Mayor met with several young people who have been supported by the service, including Jemma Ettle. Jemma had been working in retail for over three years but unfortunately lost her job during lockdown. Joining a mentoring programme at the Skills Shop, she has taken the opportunity to start a Kickstart programme for NHS careers and has recently secured an interview for a future role.
Commenting on the experience, Jemma said: “I was referred to the Youth Hub from the job centre and after my confidence had taken a knock with the loss of my job, I found this hugely supportive. The Kickstart programme gave me the opportunity to re-assess my existing skills and acquire new ones.
“I’m excited about the future for the first time in a long time.”
Helene Dearn, group director West Midlands DWP, said: “Local, tailored support is a huge focus for us and by giving access to Work Coach support in easily accessible locations will support young people boosting their confidence and help them tackle barriers to work.
“Similarly, Dudley Youth Hub will have a vital role in making sure young people have the right skills to compete for the jobs that will be on offer. In particular, young people will benefit from advice and support to help them gain placements with local employers through our Kickstart scheme. The hub will offer booked appointments, drop-in facilities and a digital service for all our young people who need to access support.”
Cllr Ruth Buttery, Dudley’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “It’s really important that our young people are given access to high-quality, independent careers advice and guidance. There are many routes into education, employment or training, and the Youth Hub will complement the excellent advice services we currently have in the council.”
Claire Millard, Assistant Principal at Dudley College of Technology, said: “The College has a long track record of supporting adults through its work at the Merry Hill Skills Shop, so the creation of the Youth Hub was a natural extension of our work. We’re proud to be working in partnership with the WMCA, DWP, Dudley Council and others to bring together local services that support young people into work or opportunities for retraining.
“Through our training programmes working with the Merry Hill Management Team we will also be supporting retailers within the centre to meet their own recruitment needs as the sector emerges from the pandemic.”
Jonathan Poole, Centre Manager at Merry Hill said: “The Dudley Youth Hub provides invaluable support to the local community by boosting the career prospects of young people at a time when it is needed most, so we’re really proud to support the initiative.
“We’re actively working in partnership with Dudley College of Technology to connect retailers and local business with this training programme to help young people kick off their careers in the retail industry; it’s a great source of talented candidates that our retail community can recruit from too.
“As a key source of jobs in the region, we’re committed to the long-term success and engagement of the programme – particularly given the positive impact it has on both the retail industry and on the lives of many young people in our region.”
Youth Hubs are part of the following Youth Offer that the WMCA has developed with Jobcentre Plus, local authorities, the voluntary sector and local employers:
This is a crucial part of the WMCA’s plan to drive the region’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic by equipping young people with the skills they need to land jobs in growth sectors.
To find out what support is available to help local young people gain access to work and training opportunities, visit https://www.youthemployment.org.uk/employment-help-young-people/youth-friendly-places-in-the-uk/west-midlands/