While last week’s employment statistics were generally good news, they also revealed that youth unemployment is rising. Fiona Aldridge shares what local areas across the country are doing to try and buck this trend

For those of you looking for some good news, last week’s labour market stats are a great place to start. The UK employment rate reached a record high, unemployment is at its lowest level since December 1974 (when apparently Slade were at number one with Merry Christmas Everyone), and real wage growth is at its strongest for two years.

Seemingly everything in the garden is rosy… though perhaps less so for some of our young people. While youth unemployment has fallen, 950,000 young people across the UK are not in education, employment or training. This is not just a challenge for today: we know that time out of education and work while you are young can limit your future opportunities, creating a lasting impact on life chances.

Where you live matters. Learning and Work Institute’s Youth Opportunity Index shows that opportunities for young people to learn and work vary across the country. While London boroughs top the index, there is no simple north-south divide or rural-urban split beyond this. And while poorer areas tend to do less well on the index, local authorities such as Blackburn show that this ‘poverty penalty’ need not be inevitable.

Our Youth Commission is seeking to help address these variations in opportunity and outcomes for young people. That is why this week, at an event hosted by our patron, HRH The Princess Royal, we will bring together a panel of young people to hear from local policy makers about what they are doing to improve education and employment opportunities for young people in their area.

In Kirklees we will hear that science and technology teachers are being linked up with local engineering businesses to help them put their teaching in context and to help inform and inspire young people to pursue these exciting jobs on their doorstep.

In Slough, the council have created the Slough Academy, a ‘grow our own scheme’ to invest in the social workers, planners, accountants and youth workers of the future, with all apprentices offered permanent contracts at competitive salaries. Alongside the Academy, an apprenticeship awareness campaign focussed on parents and schools is being launched to encourage more young people from under-represented communities to consider an apprenticeship.

Liverpool City Region is seeking to reduce youth unemployment through their Youth Employment Gateway, providing access to a personal adviser to deliver individually-tailored advice and guidance to help young people into work. In addition, each person has access to a flexible funding pot of up to £500 to help pay for goods and services that could improve their employment prospects.

The Skills Service, run by Opportunity Peterborough, is engaging local businesses, such as Caterpillar, to support careers and enterprise events in local schools and colleges. The events, which range from mock interviews and CV masterclasses to enterprise challenges and careers shows provide young people with their first experience of the world of work. Aimed at students in Years 7-13 the events showcase the huge variety of careers available, different routes into work and enhance young people’s employability.

Brighton and Plymouth are working with the RSA and Digitalme as part of their Cities of Learning programme to create new pathways into learning and employment for young people by connecting formal, informal, and in work learning opportunities that exist across their cities via a system of digital open badges. These open badges are intended to become a new ‘currency’ for learning, recognising the knowledge and skills gained through taking part in different activities both on- and off-line – and creating connectivity between different forms of learning and skills provision to improve visibility, accessibility and ultimately progression for learners. Learning and Work Institute is pleased to be partnering in this initiative, leading the work to establish the impact and outcomes of this approach on young people and on the cities themselves.

Each of these are great examples of where a local approach can help young people fulfil their potential. If, as our Youth Opportunity Index suggests, the challenge is partly a local one, then perhaps the solutions can be too.