In May this year Fife Labour set out a key pledge to support and help create more apprenticeship and training places for Fife’s young people. Now some seven months on since taking control of the Fife Council administration at that election, Fife Labour has brought forward and agreed through Fife Council a £5m investment in apprenticeships and training, working with private and third sector employers along with Fife’s colleges to create 600 apprenticeship places.
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has produced evidence showing that long term youth unemployment is now rising faster than at any point in the last 20 years. The danger is therefore that you end up with a lost generation of young people aged from 16 to 24 whose inability to get the work skills they need impacts on their ability to work throughout their adult life, and reduces their life chances. This is why government at every level must act now to stop this from happening.
The latest figures from the ONS June 2012 show that Fife now has 10,831 Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) claimants, a rate of 4.6%. This is higher than the Scottish rate of 4.2%. The UK rate is 3.9%. The number of young people aged 18-24 in Fife who are claiming JSA in June 2012 is 3,505 a rate of 9.1% of that age group. This is higher than the Scottish rate of 8.3% for the same age group. The 2009/10 school leaver destination survey reports that 466 youngsters who left school in that year are officially unemployed and looking for work. We are also seeing an increased trend of pupils, approximately 200, who left secondary education returning to school due to not securing or sustaining a training or job place. Additionally there are a further 2,000 youngsters claiming other benefits as well as 16-17 year olds who are not in education, employment or training and not entitled to benefits. (Source Fife Council Executive)
So in Fife we are taking bold steps to make new investment that will assist employers to take on an apprentice. The Council is paying wages in the first year and if necessary part of the second year by which time the apprentice is productive and the employer is then able to sustain the apprenticeship place with the young person getting a skill and trade/profession behind them. We already have some employers signed up and we are asking employers across Fife to get involved and look to see if this is a scheme that they could be involved in and take a young person on. Fifes colleges are also partners in this project and will be ensuring high quality training and skills to support on the job learning that will take place. In early November we brought forward the first ever draft budget to be published by a Council administration in Fife for consultation. This also contains a proposal for a further £1m to be invested directly in training and apprenticeship places within the Council. You can comment on that draft budget at www.fifedirect.org.uk/budget and you can give us your ideas on what the priorities should be for the Council as we face up to the savage cuts between what the Scottish government is making available to local government and what it needs to continue to deliver services. Our approach in these difficult times must continue to be based on ensuring we are getting the best value for the Fife pound and that every penny is spent on the priorities and needs of our communities.
I recently met up with apprentices who were training as electricians and joiners with the Council and it was great to hear their stories and experiences and hopes for the future. In the months ahead, I will continue to examine all budgets and policies with a view to reprioritising resources putting Fifes communities and people first.
Alex Rowley is Fife Council Leader