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West Midlands new mayor launches flagship plan to create 20,000 learning and work opportunities

The Business Magazine article image for: West Midlands new mayor launches flagship plan to create 20,000 learning and work opportunities
West Midlands Mayor Richard Parker with Jake
10 July 2024
West Midlands Mayor Richard Parker with Jake

The new Mayor of the West Midlands, Richard Parker, has launched a plan to work with local business to open up 20,000 work experience placements, training opportunities and apprenticeships training i

The Mayor shared this first phase of his plan on a regional level to align with national government’s youth guarantee, at the Learning and Work Institutes’ Employment and Skills Convention held in Birmingham.

Rising youth unemployment is a national issue, but in the West Midlands it is double the national average in some areas such as Walsall, Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

Time spent out of work under 23 is linked to lower wages and higher unemployment even 20 years on. Being out of work can also have a detrimental impact on health and, increasing the likelihood of taking up smoking, becoming obese or abusing alcohol, which in turn can impact on the chances of finding and staying in work.

The initial phase of the West Midlands youth employment plan sets out the offer to young people to ensure they have the best possible start to their working lives through meaningful advice, support services and pathways, in addition to a commitment to creating 20,000 new work experience, training placements and apprenticeships by working with partners and businesses across the region.

The offer will also include:

  • Pre-employment training in the region's fastest growing sectors and green skills, with a guaranteed interview, like the Path 2 Apprenticeship programme underway
  • Dedicated work coach support for young people who are out of work
  • Fully-funded training, up to level 3, to help young people develop the skills needed for work
  • Access to mental and physical health support, including talking therapies.
  • Building on existing youth hubs to provide all young people with access to a range of support and services, including debt and careers advice.

The Mayor said: “It was the West Midlands that offered me my greatest chance to get on in life when aged 16 I left school, unsure of my future.”

“I want the West Midlands to be the region that gives young people the best possible start in life, with good quality jobs, the support they need to feel ready for work and the ability to progress in their careers – this is why we are launching the initial phase of our West Midlands youth plan – our regional approach to delivering the national government’s youth guarantee.

“This plan will focus on skills and employment and will include work coach support, pre-employment training in growing sectors with a guaranteed interview, as well as fully funded training up to level three and access to debt and careers advice.

“I call upon businesses and learning providers in the region to continue their work with us to open up a further 20,000 new training or work placements.”

Jon Howlin, CEO of The Skills Centre said: "The Mayor’s youth employment plan aligns closely with our mission to transform lives by bringing local opportunities to local people. Collaboration between employers, training providers, and local authorities is essential for delivering relevant skills training that meets this goal.

Rob Perrins, Chief Executive of Berkeley Group, said: “We are proud to support the youth unemployment plan for the West Midlands. Social mobility is a key priority for our business and, like the Mayor, we believe every young person should have the opportunities and support they need to secure a good job and a rewarding career."

Steve Rigby Co-CEO of Rigby Group and Chair of the Rigby Foundation said: “Today’s plan is the starting point. A commitment by our mayor to work with employers and the business community to create new opportunities for the younger generation and support the region's growth and prosperity. 

“Too many of our young people are struggling. We need to create an environment where their ambition can flourish, allowing them to prosper locally in well paid roles. Investment in our region must filter through into real jobs, pay and prospects for the young people who live here.

“My family Foundation recently worked with the Centre for Social Justice to understand the challenges facing our young people and the interventions that could practically help. We are using the findings to focus our efforts in the West Midlands and will be announcing a number of exciting partnerships with charity partners as we approach our 50th year next year.  

"I hope other business leaders will join me in supporting the Mayor’s efforts.” 

Jayne Hussey, partner and head of the Birmingham office, Mills & Reeve, added: "The stats don't lie. Education and skills are a priority for our region. The mayor clearly believes the same. 

"Too many of our region's young people are falling between the cracks. Youth unemployment currently stands at 16.1 per cent in the West Midlands, compared to 13% nationally. The West Midlands also has one of the highest proportions of 16 - 24 year olds not in education, employment or training in the UK.

"There is undoubtedly a huge amount of untapped talent in our region - and we, as a business community, must work with the mayor and others to unlock it. Working to identify where local business' priorities align with the mayor's new plan, is vital if we are to make meaningful change and create opportunities that support economic growth as well as the life chances of our young people. 

"If we don't, we put at risk not only the future of our young people, but also the long term prosperity of our region."

The Construction Industry Training Board reports that 35,600 additional construction workers will be needed in the West Midlands by 2028.

Jake Collins is a young learner, who met the Mayor last week at the Adult Learning Awards and shared his learning journey into employment in healthcare.

Jake turned his life around into a good quality sustainable job with the support of the West Midlands Combined Authority’s adult education and training programmes.

As a full time carer for his mum from the age of 13, Jake missed out on getting formal education leaving school with just one GCSE.

After losing his mum aged 20, Jake was encouraged by the job centre to join a Sector-Based Work Academy Programme (SWAP) with training at Sandwell College, which led to him securing a full-time role as Ward Service Officer at Sandwell Hospital.

His success was acknowledged by the Mayor last week, when he won an Adult Learning Award for Step into Learning after being nominated by Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust.

Jake, now 21, from West Bromwich, said: “I did this course because I wanted to do something with my life and make my mom proud. I knew I wanted to work in the hospital because I had spent so much time there with my mom and wanted to help people.

“Having gained a Level 1 certificate in Health and Safety, I was offered a full-time role as a Ward Service Officer. I am so much more confident now. I feel like my life has changed more than I ever thought it would. It is good to be in work as I have a nice group of people to work with and feel like I have a purpose every day. I want to progress in the job and take on more courses and qualifications to help me.”


Nicky Godding is editor of The Business Magazine. Before her journalism career, she worked mainly in public relations moving into writing when she was invited to launch Retail Watch, a publication covering retail and real estate across Europe.

After some years of constant travelling, she tucked away her passport and concentrated on business writing, co-founding a successful regional business magazine. She has interviewed some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs who have built multi-million-pound businesses and reported on many science and technology firsts.

She reports on the region’s thriving business economy from start-ups, family businesses and multi-million-pound corporations, to the professionals that support their growth and the institutions that educate the next generation of business leaders.

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