LABOUR is set to promise councils new powers to help tackle youth unemployment.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne yesterday pointed to the partnership between Leeds City Council and construction firm BAM that has seen 90 apprentices trained during the building of the Leeds Arena as an example that other councils nationwide could follow.
The apprenticeships were part of a broader agreement intended to secure benefits for local people from the Arena project.
A “task force” on jobs for young people set up by the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury last year is due to report in the coming weeks. He said: “Leeds is breaking new ground in the business of getting young people back to work and as a country we now confront a youth unemployment emergency.
“We have got nearly 1m young people out of work where the Government is making very little progress at bringing that number down.
“What we are seeing all over the country are radical new ways of getting young people into work and Leeds is leading the charge.
“There’s a goal here of getting 15,000 apprentices over the next few years and the apprenticeship agency that was launched in November is a shining example of how Labour councils are now making a difference in a economy that is going through some very tough times.”
He added: “I think that there are big new freedoms we should be giving councils to get on with the business of getting young people into jobs.”
Mr Byrne was given a tour of the Arena, which is due to open later this year, during a visit to West Yorkshire that also saw him meet apprentices, councillors and council officials in Wakefield.
Wakefield Council leader Peter Box warned that while youth unemployment in the district had fallen it remains a “significant issue”, adding: “We have already run a number of initiatives to create apprenticeship opportunities including the Wakefield Apprenticeship Challenge which secured 197 pledges to support new places from 64 businesses.
“We are also working closely with the city deals fund to set up a new apprenticeship hub to create an additional 300 opportunities, as well as working in partnership with Jobcentre Plus to support the delivery of enterprise clubs.”