Swindon´s response to the global problem of youth unemployment was explored by members of the Chamber of Commerce this morning (Friday).
The breakfast networking meeting was addressed by Anne Carrigan, head of resourcing at Nationwide Building Society and chairman of Plan 500.
The Plan 500 partnership consists of Swindon businesses and public sector representatives working together to act as the single point of entry for those employers who want to engage with young people as a route to employment.
Plan 500 seeks to create 500 opportunities in Swindon, including 150 work experience opportunities, 150 apprenticeship opportunities, 100 young people receiving business mentoring, 50 work based qualification opportunities and 50 school diploma opportunities.
Last year it exceeded its target, helping 547 young people. This year it is on target to exceed the eponymous 500 again.
The meeting heard that Swindon has been hit disproportionately by the rising instances of youth unemployment – and in 2009 the town had one of the fastest increases in unemployed 16 to 24 year olds in the UK.
“But this isn´t just a crisis for Swindon – this is a global crisis,” said Anne, who told her audience that there were 210 million unemployed people in the world, 75 million of whom are aged 16 to 24. In the UK the young account for 24 percent of the unemployment statistics.
Anne talked about her own experiences as head of resourcing at Nationwide, a Swindon company with global reach.
“I have a workforce that is getting older,” said Anne. “How am I going to manage as my employees get older, and how am I going to fill the gap left by the absence of younger employees?”
One of Nationwide´s solutions has been to offer apprenticeships at NVQ entry level in its retail banking outlets. Young people can join the company at the bottom of the ladder, with a clear path of training and experience leading all the way to management positions.
And because these employees are apprentices, the cost to the company is reduced too.
But companies don´t need to be the size of Nationwide to enjoy the benefits of apprenticeships, the meeting heard.
There is currently £1,500 available to SMEs in Swindon who take on an apprentice. Typically, this covers the National Insurance costs of the apprentice – a massive bonus for smaller employers.
There are around 240 different apprenticeships available, including higher apprenticeships, which means employers can hire and train young people in skills like management, human resources and project management.
For more information about the work of Plan 500, log on to www.forwardswindon.co.uk/plan500
The next Swindon Chamber of Commerce business breakfast meeting will be held on Friday, June 15 when networkers will hear from Geoff Harding, South West agent for the Bank of England.
Swindon Chamber of Commerce is part of the Thames Valley Chamber Group. For more information about the Chamber Group and membership benefits take a look at www.thamesvalleychamber.co.uk or call 01753 87050. There’s also further information about Swindon at www.swindonchamber.org.uk
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