Council targets youth unemployment

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WIGAN Council has pledged to reduce youth unemployment, especially in deprived areas.

The commitment was made after a report conducted by the local authority revealed that there were currently 3,504 young people who are out of work, with 674 teenagers aged 16 to 18 who are not in education, employment or training (NEET).

Ince was the worst-hit area, with 57 NEETs aged 16 to 18 years, followed by Abram, with 52 and Pemberton, which has 48.

At the other end of the scale, Winstanley, Orrell and Atherleigh had the fewest NEETS, with only 12 in each ward.

But, in a reversal, Orrell has the highest number of 18 to 24-year-old Jobseeker Allowance (JSA) claimants, with 165, followed by Langtree, and Ashton/Golborne, totalling 160 youngsters in both areas.

Swinley was the best-performing ward, turning out 60 claimants, ahead of Atherton and Leigh Central, with 70 youths in each area. Overall the borough has 2,830 JSA claimants aged 18 to 24.

In a bid to tackle youth unemployment, the Council has been working with different agencies including Gateways and Job Centre Plus to support teenagers struggling to get work.

One major boost is the Wigan European Social Fund (ESF) NEET Project - a £1m contract for 14 to 18-year-old NEETS through apprenticeships, employment and training opportunities in fields such as childcare, hairdressing and construction.

To date there have been 548 learners, of which 315 have achieved an accredited qualification and 234 had progressed to a positive outcome. The council has run various activities in schools and jobs fairs to encourage apprenticeships.

Carol Halford, head of information, advice, learning, skills at the council, said; “The youth unemployment figures have stayed around the same for the last few months, whereas growth has occurred within the 18 to 24 and 25 plus age ranges. Although there are lots of activities, youth unemployment continues to be a challenge and we must not be complacent. We need to continue putting measures in place to tackle the issue.

“We will use the information to see which wards we need to direct our resources for providing extra support in terms of who has problems accessing opportunities. It is not just about training - it is about a holistic approach, providing advice and guidance, and helping with debt issues and confidence.”