St Helens’ youth unemployment crisis revealed

Unemployment among the young in St Helens remains a challenge
Unemployment among the young in St Helens remains a challenge
  • One in three unemployed in borough is aged between 18 and 24
  • More needed to help jobless back into work
  • General unemployment trend continues to fall
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Almost one in three St Helens jobseekers are aged between 18 and 24 as rates of unemployment in the town continue to fall.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show out of 3,612 people claiming unemployment benefit in the town at the end of June 2015 exactly 1,000 of them were in the young people age bracket.

Some young people who are further away from the labour market need to be helped more with getting them to a point where they can compete on a level playing field

DWP regional spokesman Alan Harrison

That represents a considerable improvement on the employment situation 12 months ago, with a six per cent reduction in the overall number of claimants receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance or universal credit and an eight per cent drop in the 18-24 age group.

However, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) admitted more needs to be done to get younger people at the start of their careers into the workplace.

DWP regional spokesman Alan Harrison said: “In St Helens the unemployment figure for young people sticks out like a sore thumb, as just under a third are 18 to 24 years old. That’s still the challenge.

“Some young people who are further away from the labour market need to be helped more with getting them to a point where they can compete on a level playing field.

“We are providing work experience placements, and I think about 50 per cent of the young people who go on them end up with some kind of opportunity.

“One of the things St Helens Council is good at doing is apprenticeships, and people have long been in a position where the local authority supports them fully and also runs its own apprenticeship schemes with a very good network of employers.

“If you are serious about wanting a job there are more opportunities now.

“It might not be what you want to do for the rest of your life but it will show what you can do.” The percentage decreases for St Helens are slightly smaller than for Merseyside as a whole, with the county recording eight per cent drops in overall claimants and those aged between 18 and 24. National figures, however, show a more complicated picture, with unemployment rising in the three months up to May 2015, with 15,000 more people being out of work and overall employment falling by 67,000 to 30.98m.

Mr Harrison said the picture locally was improving, with opportunities arising in Merseyside for groups such as men in their 40s and 50s who typically find it harder to find another job once they are out of work.

He also praised the work being done in key employment areas around St Helens such as logistics and said the return of sectors such as manufacturing was encouraging.

Mr Harrison said: “In St Helens we are working a lot with logistics firms. Across the region they are looking to reduce the average age of their HGV drivers, so we are working with them to ensure they invest in the training people need.

“Across Merseyside construction is up and there is investment coming into the docks which could help people from St Helens. There are also suggestions that firms are looking at bringing back manufacturing, which always disappears quickest when the economic situation is on a downturn.

“We’ve also got teams in St Helens working with employers coming into the area who wants their workforces to have certain skills before any kind of recruiting begins. These teams are working at full capacity which is good because it means employers are recruiting for the long term.

“We do have part-time jobs and also some zero-hours contracts, but the message I want to get across is no-one is forced to consider a zero-hours job. They are quite useful for people looking at a second job, but people will not be penalised for looking at such a role and not taking it.”