Jonathan Townsend, northern regional director of The Prince’s Trust, on youth unemployment in the North West
As the North West emerges from the recession, and is once more on the road to economic recovery, only now are we beginning to see real growth in our local industries.
However, to stay ahead we must act and ensure that we harness the full potential of our region’s unemployed young people.
The reality is that while the crisis that rocked the UK and the region’s economy has abated and the region’s businesses are reporting heightened demand for their services, local employers tell us they are increasingly concerned by skills shortages developing as a consequence of this accelerated growth.
Within The Skills Crunch, a new report from The Prince’s Trust and HSBC, business leaders highlight the damage that skills gaps could do, not only to staff morale but to company survival rates.
They also raise concerns about how they will struggle to grow in the future as their ageing workforces retire.
In fact, more than half (55 per cent) of North West businesses are already struggling to fill vacancies. Almost two thirds fear skills shortages will slam the brakes on the UK’s economic recovery (65 per cent); while almost half fear it would cause businesses to fold (49 per cent).
When the credit bubble burst in 2008 the damage to the local economy was devastating and many young people suffered due to the lack of jobs. This must be avoided if we do not want the same to happen again.
It is therefore deeply concerning when we have thousands of unemployed young people in the North West who are still desperate for work. Indeed there are more than one in five (21 per cent) young people currently struggling to find a job in the region right now.
The decisions we make today will have long-term consequences that must protect the local economy and our young people. We believe that now is the time for employers, government and charities – such as The Prince’s Trust – to work together to tackle the North West’s impending skills crunch and up-skill the workforce of the future.
We know that unemployed young people want to work and that employers have vacancies they want to fill. In fact, our report highlights that 75 per cent of North West business leaders see the recruitment of young people as vital to averting a skills crisis. Prince’s Trust programmes in the North West are already helping employers to fill skills gaps with young people who are dedicated, passionate and grateful to have been given a chance – sometimes for the first time in their life.
We also work in schools, helping to give young people the skills they need to find a job in the future.
Our employability schemes are run in partnership with employers in sectors which have identified skills shortages such as construction, retail and logistics.
We help to break down the barriers between unemployed young people, who often have little hope for the future, and employers, resulting in real jobs with companies in the North West such as Marks & Spencer, DHL, and Swissport.
The Prince’s Trust worked with more than 6,544 disadvantaged young people in the North West last year, but with more support from the public and private sector – we could help many more.