STATISTICS released by the government last month showed that the number of young people aged between 16-24 who were unemployed between December 2011 and February 2012 was 1.03 million – up 73,000 (7.7 per cent) from the same quarter in the previous year.
That includes both school leavers and university graduates, but the biggest problem is really with young people who have been labelled as NEETS – Not in Education, Employment or Training – generally, teenagers who have come to the end of their time at school but who have no desire to go on to university and who are unable to find work.
There is no doubt the job market is incredibly tough at the present time with sometimes hundreds of people battling for every job.
But there are routes open to some youngsters that could lead them into skilled employment.
One such is provided by an organisation called Hillingdon Training Limited (HTL), based at The Runway, in South Ruislip, which provides training courses in a number of disciplines including the motor industry, construction, child care, sports or retail and business administration. The average programme is delivered over a 26-week period.
HTL also offers work-based learning in the shape of two levels of apprenticeship in business and administration and customer service.
Typically, it will take between two and two-and-a-half years to complete these apprenticeships, but at the end of it, HTL can offer guaranteed positions of employment. The right candidates can even obtain fully-funded places.
HTL is the brainchild of Peter Sale, a former teacher at Uxbridge High School, who also used to run the Hillingdon Education Business Partnership.
It was from that background that Mr Sale realised there was precious little help for school leavers to find their way into the jobs market and, in January 2003, he decided to take the plunge and set up HTL to address that hole in the marketplace.
He said: “I started from scratch and it was tough going at first, but it helped that I had good contacts with the schools and businesses in the borough and we’ve grown quite quickly over the years.
“We actually start encouraging young people to think about their futures as 13-year-olds in year nine at school. We work quite closely with schools like Abbotsfield in Hillingdon, where we’ve got a construction college.”
That principle of catching young people early continues with 14 to 16 year-olds, who get the chance to work with motor vehicles using some school facilities and some through partnerships with existing businesses.
A lot of what HTL has to offer is free. The company is a not-for-profit organisation and much of what it offers is funded by the Skills Funding Agency, so it does not discriminate against those who cannot afford training.
Clearly what Mr Sale and his colleagues offer has proved extremely popular with youngsters.
He said: “During the past nine years we have had at least a couple of thousand young people going through our training and apprenticeships. Our biggest problem has been getting local businesses to come on board and think about taking on apprentices.
“Of our apprentices, 80 per cent progress with an employer when the course ends and we’re very proud of that.”
Another company helping to prepare young people for work is JGA – Jane Goodwin Associates – based in Field End Road, Eastcote.
Jane Goodwin herself is also a former teacher with two stints at Uxbridge College in her CV and she, too, believes that apprenticeships offer a great way into the workplace.
Ms Goodwin said: “We offer a wide range of apprenticeships and training courses including child care, marketing, customer service, health and social skills and business and administration. Most courses we run are free because the employer provides the money – and many employers can get support from the Skills Funding Agency.”
JGA decided that it, too, could benefit from an apprentice when it took on 18-year-old Stacey Kelly, a former pupil at Haydon School, as a marketing apprentice in December 2011.
Stacey, from Ruislip, said: “This works better for me than being at school. I can learn on my own terms and I’m benefitting from all the experience of the people in JGA.
“It’s more challenging intellectually and allows me to be quite creative which is brilliant.
“School seems a lifetime away now.”
One of JGA’s unique training methods is what Jane calls ‘blended learning.’
She said: “It’s a mixture of face-to-face sessions and e-learning, which means we can keep to a minimum the amount of time apprentices need to spend away from work.”
? Mort Smith takes a look at an apprenticeship scheme run jointly by Uxbridge College and British Airways, which offers youngsters a chance to join the jet set – in your Gazette this week.