Latest Public Sector News

19.06.15

Unlocking opportunities by tackling youth unemployment

Source: PSE June/July 15

Mark Stamper, youth employment manager at Newcastle City Council and Generation NE project lead, explains how a new programme aimed at progressing young people into sustained employment could also help strengthen the region’s call for further devolution.

Despite recent reductions, the percentage of 16-24 year olds not in education, employment or training (so-called NEETs) in the north east during Q1 2015 was 18.5% – the highest rate in England. 

However, there are plans to tackle these Labour Force Survey statistics through a locally designed and delivered programme aimed at reducing youth unemployment and stemming the number of young people referred to the government’s Work Programme. 

Through the Newcastle City Deal, £4.5m was secured from the Cabinet Office to deliver Generation NE across Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland from 2014-17. 

The project has an aim to help 4,500 young people into employment through individually tailored support delivered by a team of dedicated employment advisors. PSE caught up with Mark Stamper, youth employment manager at Newcastle City Council and Generation NE project lead, to discuss the project’s early performance. 

“Generation NE is really about developing local solutions that are cognisant of local provision and local opportunities to build something that is relevant,” he said. 

“In terms of doing that, we aim to drive up demand for young people in the workforce. That message is very targeted towards employers, but it is also about supporting young people to prepare and motivate themselves and take those opportunities. 

“In terms of the design concept, it is largely about offering a simplified and coordinated service that is, importantly, quality assured for both businesses and young people.” 

He explained that a team of business advisors directly engage with local companies to gain an in-depth understanding of their recruitment and training needs and generate opportunities for young people. In addition, peer mentors help young people with personal and social issues. 

The programme targets support to 17-24 year olds for at least 13 weeks, with Jobcentres referring young people who need more “targeted” support to Generation NE. 

Stamper said that originally eligibility had been set for 18 year olds, but this was lowered to  17 to try to “bridge the gap” when young people transition into the adult system, which “can be quite a turbulent time for a lot of people”. 

As part of the programme, the young person is offered tailored support to find work in exchange for a commitment to engage with the programme. There is also scope to support young people with financial barriers including travel costs to interviews and work clothes. 

“In terms of the programme to date, we’ve got approximately 600 people who are engaged with the service and we’ve progressed 220, at the last count, into employment or apprenticeships, which are both valid outcomes,” said Stamper. 

“We also have a dedicated in-work support and progression service, which is about supporting those young people once they’ve moved into employment. It is about supporting them not just by staying in employment, but progressing them in employment as well. It is a much longer-term view of success.” 

Although the programme is still quite new, Stamper said the phased-in approach for Generation NE has allowed the project partners and stakeholders to “learn as we go along but also react to changes in policy”. 

Over the next couple of months there will also be a push to increase staff capacity within the programme, because the number of people engaged with Generation NE is expected to grow significantly. 

Stamper added that one of the key successes is how collaboration between the local partners has helped deliver the programme. 

“What we are trying to do here is deliver a programme that is consistent in its external position and principles, so the vision and the mission of the programme is strong and the same right across the delivery,” PSE was told. “What we’ve consciously done is make sure that everyone who works collectively on Generation NE is brought together regularly as part of that programme team – even though they may sit geographically away from each other.” 

He added that Generation NE is also acting as a good platform for all the stakeholders – such as the local authorities, combined authority, LEP, funding agencies and Jobcentre Plus – to demonstrate that local areas can be responsible in delivery for these services. 

“It also shows we can develop local solutions to tackle some of the economic challenges and social challenges that face our area,” he said. “The future of devolution around this particular agenda needs to be focused on how we utilise these programmes as a platform to build on the evidence base – that with flexibility in design and funding of programmes, local areas can deliver results cost effectively and responsibly.”

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