Young people among first of 1,000 in West Midlands to complete work placement programme

A group of young people were today among the first to complete work placements as part of a scheme to help more than 1,000 young adults into work in the West Midlands.

The Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street presented certificates to the first 30 young people to successfully graduate from an 11-day work placement with BT today (24 July). The participants, all aged between 18 and 24, received training and work experience with the telecoms firm, preparing them for careers in an increasingly digital world.

BT’s placements in Birmingham are part of a wider scheme, involving work placement charity Movement to Work (MtW) and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), which is working with several large employers in the region to offer work experience to more than 1,000 young people.

Young people among first of 1,000 in West Midlands to complete work placement programme

Work placement graduates James Lovell, 23, and Balkirit Poonia, 21, with Liz Williams, director of digital society at BT, and Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street

The Mayor said: “These young people have taken the first step towards entering the world of work, and they should be congratulated for successfully graduating after their work placements.

“Reducing youth unemployment is proving to be a stubborn challenge in the West Midlands, but with the help of employers like BT, and through our work with programmes such as Movement to Work, we are trying a new approach that provides meaningful and useful work experiences.

“The jobs are out there, we just need to make sure our young people are in the best position to grab them.”

Among the graduates was James Lovell, 23, from Sutton Coldfield.

He said: “The BT Work Ready programme has helped me grow in confidence by working on my CV, interview and presentation skills and giving me work experience. While on this course I’ve been inspired to apply for a customer service apprenticeship with BT. I’ve had my telephone interview and am keeping my fingers crossed I’ll get to the next stage.”

Another graduate, Balkirit Poonia, 21, from Dudley, added: “One thing that stood out was the passion and eagerness of the coaches in helping us reach our full potential. It was motivating and uplifting to work alongside them, making me more confident in my abilities and broadening my mind to different career options. Overall, it was an experience I would highly recommend.”

BT hosted the graduation ceremony at Fazeley Studios in Digbeth today (July 24). The company has committed to provide 150 work placements in the West Midlands so even more young people will get the chance to experience work.

Liz Williams, director of digital society at BT, said: “It’s fantastic to see the new skills and confidence that these young people have gained in such a short period.

“In the future nearly all jobs will require some level of digital skills – so it’s crucial that programmes like this give young people the training, coaching, and experience they need to thrive in modern work, instead of being left further behind by technology.”

The work placements are part of a national pilot of the Government-led Transition to Work project which aims to support unemployed young people into work.

Youth unemployment remains a persistent and stubborn 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 working in partnership with the WMCA, 18 local authorities, four local enterprise partnerships, training providers and youth-outreach charities to deliver the project. It arranges the placements to give young people the opportunity to build their skills and confidence, develop ambition and show potential employers what they are capable of.

The MtW 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 complete a Movement to Work placement have gone into employment or back into education.

James Ashall, Movement to Work chief executive, said: “It’s great to see young people who have not had the right opportunities in life building their confidence and developing new skills. Work placements and employability schemes give young people a real chance, and enable them to gain access to mentors who want them to succeed and who pass on their experience and knowledge.

“At least 50% of young people who complete schemes go from unemployment to meaningful jobs or into education. I look forward to hearing about the future success of the young people graduating from BT’s scheme today.”

As well as BT, employers including the British Army, BUPA, Diageo, Marks & Spencer, Starbucks and University Hospital Birmingham have committed to provide work placements for young people in the region.

The WMCA is now encouraging businesses across the West Midlands to get involved.

Employers can get more information and sign up to offer work placements for 18 to 30-year-olds in the region by contacting Rory Allbutt at Movement to Work ( or Philip Tillman at the WMCA (