THE news that several London boroughs – including some that neighbour the Square Mile – are among the areas worst-hit by child poverty is a stark reminder of the tough economic climate many people are facing across the capital.
It more vital than ever, therefore, that the City demonstrates how the positive relationship between finance and society can make a tangible difference to local communities. To quote that great Londoner John Donne, the Square Mile is not – and can never be – an island, entire of itself.
The City’s primary role is to provide high quality services that benefit customers and clients across many sectors, by facilitating job creation and growth. Firms also play a crucial role in helping individuals develop the skills needed to succeed in the world of work.
Young people are the heartbeat of London, like in any great city. They also bring energy, enthusiasm and the innovation needed to push the economy forward. That makes the growing number of young individuals not in employment, education or training (NEETs) a serious concern. In London alone, 125,000 people aged 16-24 now fall within this category and we risk seeing their potential wasted.
The City has a responsibility to play its part in tackling this youth unemployment problem, and in helping to prevent individuals falling through the net. So the City of London Corporation recently launched a new Employability Pilot Scheme, designed to help equip young Londoners with the skills employers need. This pilot will provide £2m for a new partnership between Central London Forward, the voluntary sector, and our neighbouring boroughs, with the aim of helping 2,000 Londoners into jobs and supporting 1,200 more with mentoring and skills training.
This builds on the work of the City Corporation’s Get Young People Working Scheme. This makes grants of up to £100,000 available to all 32 London boroughs, as part of an initiative designed to help 1,000 young people across the capital into employment or apprenticeships. We believe such schemes will help to spread prosperity by raising aspirations and creating opportunities that otherwise might not have existed.
Many companies already do a huge amount in this area, whether it is supporting young people through apprenticeships, internships, work experience or career workshops. With National Apprenticeship Week (11-15 March) fast approaching, this is the perfect time to consider doing even more to nurture talented individuals on our doorstep.
The City has a long tradition of seeing finance as a means to an end, rather than seeing wealth as an end in itself. Investing in society and helping young people from across London into work in the current economic environment is, I believe, one of the best ways of showing that global finance can have local benefits.
Roger Gifford is lord mayor of the City of London.