THE Yorkshire region remains one of the nation’s worst youth unemployment blackspots despite the number of young people out of work or education falling by more than 20,000 in the final quarter of last year.
New figures show the number of 16 to 24-year-olds not in education, employment or training (NEET) dropped from 137,000 at the end of the third quarter to 111,000 at the end of 2012. As a result, the amount of NEET young people in the region was at its lowest level at the end of a calendar year since 2008. But the figures, published by the Department of Education yesterday, mean about one in six young people in Yorkshire are out of work or education – one of the highest levels in the country.
The head of policy at the Leeds, North Yorkshire and York Chamber of Commerce, Mark Goldstone, said: “Any reduction in this number we are obviously pleased with. From our perspective we recognised the problems that young people are facing, which is why we got behind the Leeds Apprenticeship Training Agency (Leeds ATA).”
He said the scheme, designed to give more young people apprenticeships, is one of a number of regional initiatives aimed at solving the NEET problem. The statistics show 16.4 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds in the region were NEET at the end of last year.
It is the third worst figure of any of the Government regions in England behind only the West Midlands and the North-East where the figure is 17.8 per cent. But it is the first time the level of NEETs in Yorkshire has dropped significantly below 20 per cent since early 2011.
Mr Goldstone said: “There is a lot of work to be done and it all comes down to the economy. The confidence in business is returning, we can see that, but what can Government do about that? It’s just about creating the right environment.”
The numbers of young people who are NEET always drops between the end of the third and fourth quarter, as the third quarter’s figures include all the people who have left the education system at 16 and 18 in the summer without securing work or training. The majority of the young people in Yorkshire who were NEET were aged 18 or over. Of the 110,000 16 to 24-year-olds, 107,000 were 18 or above.
Leeds City Council’s executive member for children’s services, Councillor Judith Blake, said: “The work we already have in place has seen a fantastic reduction in the number of young people who are NEET but there is still a long way to go to achieve our ambition.”
She said initiatives like the Leeds ATA are having a “huge impact” on getting people back into work education or training. Just 6.6 per cent of 16 to 19-year-olds in the Leeds were classed as NEET in January.
Coun Blake added: “Helping young people into employment, education or training is one of our three key obsessions. Securing their future and raising their ambitions and aspirations is vital, not just for their success but for the future success of the city. The progress we are making shows what we can do if we have a relentless focus on our priorities.”
The release of the figures coincides with the launch of another new apprenticeship scheme, funded by Leeds Federated Housing Association and Leeds City Council’s housing management firm Aire Valley Homes Leeds. The project will offer creative 16 to 24-year-olds the chance to take their first steps into a multi-media career through one-year apprenticeships. Placements for up to four social housing tenants will be run by Leeds-based social enterprise Future Arts and the apprentices will be working with video editing, film and production techniques, blogging, social media and photography.
The director of digital arts engagement at Future Arts, Gemma Povey, said: “This apprenticeship opportunity is a shining example of how Future Arts is working to uplift people through creative technology.”
She added: “We’re looking forward to welcoming some fresh talent into the organisation and providing an opportunity to get much needed experience.”