‘Business buy-in’ provides opportunities for our young people

Youth unemployment remains too high. This Tory-led government have done little to prevent a lost generation. Labour in Camden refuses to give up on our young people, despite losing 50 per cent of our council budget.

That is why we are doing all we can – making every pound count – to equip young people for employment. Since 2010, Camden’s Labour-run council has created 949 apprenticeships. This May, Labour were re-elected in Camden on the promise of creating another 1000 apprentices.

This can only be achieved through business buy-in. Local businesses say they need employees with skills to help grow their companies. Camden’s future economic success depends on making sure that they have them. We secure this through the Camden Business Board, where the council encourages businesses to invest in their future workforce by offering apprenticeships, experience and training.

Camden’s Labour council adds more value in promoting strong relationships between our schools and local businesses, through aspiration frameworks and business links.

As well as securing work experience at major companies like Google, over 200 young people in Camden have taken up vocational learning: from construction at King’s Cross Construction Skills Centre, to silversmithing at Holts Jewellery Academy in Hatton Garden.

However if local government want employers to make work pay for more local people, then we must lead by example.

As the country’s first ever ‘timewise’ council, Camden promotes flexible and part-time positions, helping parents with childcare. We are also piloting part-time adult apprenticeships for parents over-25, which will be used to influence national policy.

As one of the first London living wage-accredited councils, we are determined to root-out low pay. From 1 January 2015, Camden will lift all full-time staff to a new minimum annual salary of £18,297, rising to £20,000 by 2018.

Labour in Camden is ambitious in utilising levers to create better employment opportunities but we are operating on a shoestring budget and could do so much more. That is why I called on the Local Government Innovation Taskforce for greater powers and importantly, budgets, to be devolved to councils.

I welcome Ed Miliband’s recommendations to transfer real power to councils, including responsibility for skills. We understand our residents better than Whitehall and can focus funding more effectively.

I welcome further proposals for a Labour government to increase the number of apprenticeships for young people in both public and private sectors. Also plans for a new gold-standard vocational route, including technical degrees and baccalaureates, for the forgotten 50 per cent of young people not following traditional academic routes.

A future curriculum should enable young people to choose between academic and vocational, or crucially both. To ensure genuine progress in a future economy, Labour must cease from perpetuating perceived divisions between knowledge and skills. Otherwise young people will miss opportunities for learning and our economy will not supply the necessary skills and knowledge mix for future industries.

In empowering councils to provide high-quality skills training, Labour is making a fantastic start and helping to ensure that young people in Camden and across Britain succeed in the future.

However, we should not limit ambition. For more impact and value from local government, Labour must go even further.

Even more power should be devolved at a local level to provide greater economic responsibility, because we know our local and regional economies best. Even more changes are required to future-proof our curriculum, combining skills and knowledge, ensuring our young people can compete in a rapidly modernising global economy.

After four years of a Tory-led government condemning young people to the scrapheap, a Labour government must pull out all the stops to provide for our future economy and prevent another lost generation.

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Sarah Hayward is leader of Camden council

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Photo: James Stringer

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