A NEW strategy to get young people into work, improve skill levels and attract investment has been launched by the leader of Wakefield Council.
Coun Peter Box urged local firms to invest more in the district to help make the council’s Jobs and Growth Plan a success at a Wakefield Enterprise Partnership meeting on Friday.
The plan promises to improve transport links in the Hemsworth and South Elmsall areas to better connect young people with job opportunities and apprenticeship posts.
Coun Box told business owners that young people were not currently leaving school with the right skills to fit local jobs. And he urged them to work with the council to improve the district’s skill levels, which are among the lowest in the country.
Coun Box said: “This is a real issue of concern. We need to understand that unless our young people acquire most of the skills they need we are going to fall even further behind.
“We’re the only city in the country without a university and have been working closely with Wakefield College to narrow the mismatch between skills.”
After the meeting, he said he wanted businesses to start engaging with schoolchildren of a younger age.
He said: “We need to nurture the aspirations of primary school children and make them understand what the world of work is like.”
The council said businesses currently invest around £54m into the local economy every year.
The Jobs and Growth Plan encourages them to invest an extra £8m a year by April next year and an extra £26m by 2017, which would help to bring hundreds of new apprenticeship posts and cut unemployment numbers.
Coun Box, who is leading a trade mission to China later this month with representatives from local firms, said the district needed to be in the strongest possible position when the country eventually comes out of recession.
He told the meeting: “We issue a challenge to businesses to work with us. I believe if we do work together we can really make a difference and make the district a better place, one where young people have got a real future.”
Mark Ridgway, managing director of Group Rhodes, said: “This is an important milestone for Wakefield. It highlights both the necessity of partnership between the public and private sector, and the commitment and importance that the council places on supporting economic growth and job creation. More people with higher skills, whether through apprenticeships or higher education, will make us more competitive as a city region.”
Ed Balls MP said: “It’s great news that here in Wakefield a plan is in place to help our local economy to mitigate against the national pattern of decline.”