Peterborough Youth Unemployment – The Lost Generation?

youth unemployment08:24 Thursday 17th March 2011
Peterborough Breakfast BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Unemployment is continuing to rise in the city. In the last two months, the number of people claiming JobSeekers’ Allowance has risen by over 800 people. That’s about 20%. The increase is even steeper for those between 18 and 24. Our reporter Sam Appleby has been out speaking to Anthony who’s 24 years old, unemployed, an electrician who lives in this city. (TAPE)
ANTHONY: When I used to see the figures on the news, so many people made redundant, unemployment figures going up, I didn’t take any notice of it. Oh well, they obviously aren’t trying very hard. But now that I’m out of a job, and nine other people I used to work with, only one of them has found a job. He’s a skilled electrician and he now works in a call-centre.
SAM APPLEBY: Have you got any idea what you’re going to do next?
ANTHONY: One of the agencies that I applied for, they initially didn’t have any work for me, and then they offered me a job in Australia, which I said no to straight away. But as the weeks go on, I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I should take that opportunity. Something I wasn’t considering doing, moving to the other side of the world to find work, it might have to be an option, because there’s nothing here. I’ve been out of work for nearly three months, and as far as I can see it isn’t getting any better. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: That’s Anthony, who’s an unemployed electrician, thinking of even moving to Australia, where they’re crying out for them. Steve Bowyer is Head of Economic Development for Opportunity Peterborough in the city. Steven, that sort of thing makes very difficult listening, doesn’t it, when you know you’ve got trained people there. We often hear about people skiving, oh they’re skiving, they don’t want the jobs, they don’t want to work. There’s a guy, he’s trained, he wants a job, can’t get one.
STEVE BOWYER: Yes. Morning Paul. It is very sad, and it’s across the country. And there is this perception of skivers, but actually that’s such a small minority. People do want to work, and that’s genuine. The figures that have just come out show that unemployment has increased. It’s increased in the city as well. Some of those figures will be seasonal workers, and Peterborough is reliant on seasonal working, not reliant, but it has a dependence on that. And yes, it’s unfortunate, and we’re trying to turn around the economy in Peterborough, as the whole country is, and we are leading that way.
PAUL STAINTON: Well we say that, don’t we. We’ve heard for a few months now that Opportunity Peterborough and Peterborough City Council are bringing many many jobs to the city. But unemployment’s just gone up 20%. 800 more people claiming JobSeekers’ Allowance. Why?
STEVE BOWYER: Some of it, as I say, if you look at the timing for that, will be seasonal workers coming out, and that’s where the increase in those sorts of figures will come from.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s a lot though, 20%. It can’t be that much though, can it?
STEVE BOWYER: No. We have just over 5,000 unemployed ..
PAUL STAINTON: Sorry to interrupt but it doesn’t equate does it? If we’re bringing all these jobs in, how can it be rising by 20%?
STEVE BOWYER: We are bringing jobs in. Over the last 13/14 months we’ve had 3,000 new jobs announced. So we know that’s improving. Jobcentre Plus are showing an increase in job notifications as well. Yes they don’t marry exactly across. But don’t forget we are in a difficult economic situation across the country. All I can say is that within Peterborough, it’s possibly not hitting as hard as we’re seeing in other parts of the country. But is is still bad.
PAUL STAINTON: I haven’t seen a 20% increase anywhere else, to be honest.
STEVE BOWYER: I don’t know where your 20% is coming from. We have had 500 just after Christmas, and there is 300 this time. As I say, a lot of that will be seasonal work. But the numbers of jobs being announced is better than a lot of other parts of the country. So those have got to come through the system. That’s a point.
PAUL STAINTON: Nobody’s blaming Opportunity Peterborough, or Peterborough City Council for the economic downturn, obviously. But are we doing enough to create enough jobs to, as David Cameron has said many times, private companies have got to fill the gap. We’ve got to rebalance the work structure, if you like, from public sector into private sector jobs, proper jobs.
STEVE BOWYER: You’re absolutely right, and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there, where you’ve talked about David Cameron’s position on this. Because Peterborough isn’t an island, so we have to work in the structures that are around us nationally. What we are doing is wherever possible pushing as hard as we can to get those jobs in. We’ve seen significant interest. We’ve seen new inward investment. But we’ve seen growth in the companies already in Peterborough. So Amazon, BGL, WhiteConcierge, are all announcing job increases. What we’ve got to make sure is that we’ve got the right skills for those jobs, and encourage big developers to recruit locally, sub-contract locally, those sorts of things. So all of those are tools that we can use locally. What we can’t do is change the national picture, unfortunately.
PAUL STAINTON: What are we doing for young people in this city though? Because I mentioned the rise in people claiming JobSeekers’ Allowance. 828 people it’s gone up in the last two months. That’s 20% virtually. In the 18-24 age group the people claiming JSA has gone up by 28%. What are we doing for young people in this city?
STEVE BOWYER: We’re doing a lot. We’re working with both the colleges and local businesses. We’ve just launched a skills vision, which ties in local businesses to the providers of education. And we’ve launched 100 apprenticeships. So we’re trying to really boost that apprenticeship role in the city. It won’t be an overnight success, but we are working hard, because you’re absolutely right. We have, in the country, over 900,000 young people classes as NEETS, that’s not in employment education or training. That’s a terrible indictment. What we need to do is make sure we have the skills available for the workforce, but make sure the workforce can recruit locally, because we’ve got the skilled workforce there.
PAUL STAINON: OK. It’s disappointing though, isn’t it? Really disappointing.
STEVE BOWYER: It’s hard It’s very hard.
PAUL STAINTON: Steve, thank you for coming in this morning. Appreciate that. Steve Bowyer, Head of Economic Development at Opportunity Peterborough.