For some time I have been very concerned about the rising level of unemployment in my constituency and in particular about the level of youth unemployment. As of January this year there are 4,600 people out of work in Wolverhampton South East, 12.6% of the working age population. There are 1,500 young people on Job Seekers Allowance in the constituency. All of this places us in the top 20 constituencies for unemployment in the whole country.
As a local MP I had to ask what I could do about this. No single MP can change the national economic picture, let alone the global one. But I do believe there are things we can do to help local young people, so I contacted the Black Country Chamber of Commerce and Black Country Job Centre Plus to ask them to join me in organising a Wolverhampton Work Experience Programme.
I wrote to local employers in both the private and public sectors asking them to make places available to unemployed local young people. These places should last at least six weeks. The scheme is voluntary and no young person is forced to take part.
I believe we have to do everything we can to avoid a lost generation of young people losing touch with the world of work. Of course work experience is not the same as a full time paid job but it can play a valuable role by giving a young person experience of the world of work, giving them a sense of purpose and hopefully enhancing their chance of getting a job in the future.
The programme was launched on Friday 24th February in the Mayor’s Parlour at Wolverhampton Civic Centre. I want to thank all the employers from public and private sectors for coming to the launch and offering places. We have had a fantastic response so far. The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust has said they will provide 100 places which they guarantee to be above and beyond their normal staffing levels. Others such as the great Robin 2 Music venue in Bilston, Barnshaw Steel bending in Coseley and Angel Springs in Ettingshall have also said they will offer places.
The next step will be to pull these offers together and make the list available to local young people. If you are an employer and want to offer a place, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s give local young people a chance.