`The 16-18 year old age group have found it particularly challenging to find work and more specifically, apprenticeship opportunities' Salford Council report
Salford Council's latest statistics reveal that 6.2%, or 455, of the city's 16-18 year olds are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET), a 0.4% rise on the previous year.
Meanwhile, participation in apprenticeships for the same age group is down 17% - 709 young people, compared to 855 the previous academic year. A Council report states that this figure is "notably higher than both the national and regional averages (-1.5% and -12.3% respectively) and the local authority's 'statistical neighbours (-16.3%)".
The Council explains that the decline is due, in part, to more young people going into further education and the recession but adds that "The 16-18 year old age group have found it particularly challenging to find work and more specifically, apprenticeship opportunities."
The Salford Star has been told by a source who works within the sector that the whole set up of the apprenticeship system is working against giving young Salford people from low income families chances to take up such opportunities - …
"As a city we're very proactive in getting apprenticeships for NEET young people in things like the sports industry, which aren't the usual kind of apprenticeships" he said "But the system to recruit just doesn't work at the moment. There are too many barriers."
Our source added that several families in which the son or daughter has been offered an apprenticeship have pulled out of the scheme because of finances…
"The £120 income the young person gets for doing the apprenticeship is set against any benefits that the family has got coming in, so if you're on child benefits or Job Seekers Allowance there's a loss of £85 to that household" he explained "The economic power would be sat with the young person who's earning the wage, while the money is taken off mum or dad's benefits. You still have to backfill the household income – who's going to buy the food? £85 for a low income household is a lot of money. And that money is lost.
"And if the young person puts £85 back into the household, after bus fares, they would be left with around £15 a week to do the apprenticeship" he added "So the family doesn't encourage it, and prefers them to go to college. I've seen cases where the apprenticeship has been stopped."
Meanwhile, most apprenticeships are handled centrally through the National Apprenticeship Service website, on which young people have to register. He argues that the online system is putting potential applicants off, while the companies offering apprenticeships are only choosing the brightest kids.
"The apprenticeships are held in a central pot and there's cherry picking by providers" he says "They will go with the best and the rest can go sing."
Salford Council, quite rightly, believes that "Tackling poverty by reducing worklessness and improving skills remains a key priority". Unfortunately the partnership that's in place to make this priority a reality, the `Think Skills and Work Board', "has lost traction and focus, attendance at meetings has dwindled and its position and responsibilities have become unclear", according to a Council report.
It set up a `multi-agency working group' under the leadership of Councillor Boshell, and came up with the idea to re-brand the Think Skills and Work Board as the all new, er, Skills and Work Board (leaving out the `thinking' bit).
To help drive the new Board, the Council is proposing to recruit a new Skills and Work Board Business Manager. And part of the manager's remit will be to `rationalise' and `improve efficiency' within the departments – which will probably lead to job losses and an increase in, er `worklessness'.
Artwork by Joe Coffey