YOUNG people are the lifeblood of London, like any great city. They bring the ideas, innovation, and enthusiasm needed to drive our economy forward.
Consequently, one of the most damaging legacies of the recent recession has been the growing number of young people not in employment, education or training (Neets). In the capital alone, there were 125,000 individuals aged 16-24 that fell within this category during the first quarter of 2012.
This is a damning statistic that has a very real impact on communities across London. A generation is at risk of being trapped in a cycle of unemployment, despite last week’s promising announcement that the economy has returned strongly to growth.
In response to this pernicious problem, the City of London Corporation has launched a new £3.28m scheme entitled Get Young People Working – The Youth Offer. This initiative will make grants of up to £100,000 available to all 32 London boroughs in an effort to help 1,000 young people across the capital into employment or apprenticeships. Crucially, the offer will be for work that is in addition to publicly-funded programmes, and will not act as a replacement for spending cuts.
In our experience of supporting London’s third sector through the City of London Corporation’s charity, City Bridge Trust, we have found that the best outcomes are achieved when boroughs and charities work together in partnership to develop local, flexible strategies. That is why Get Young People Working aims to support grassroots initiatives across the 32 boroughs – each of which has its own specific challenges in this area.
Youth unemployment is one of the biggest drivers of social exclusion and disadvantage today. The government and the mayor of London are working hard to tackle this issue but, as always, more needs to be done to prevent individuals falling through the net.
That is where the City comes in. We need to do more to support young people across London and demonstrate to others that we are not an oasis of privilege, simply concerned with looking after our own interests. After all, the City can only be defended as an asset for London and the UK when it serves as a means to an end – whether that is serving clients, generating tax or, as in this case, providing employment.
I know that many City firms, like the City of London Corporation, already do a lot of work in this area, whether it is apprenticeships, internships or other schemes. But all of us have to take a serious look at what more we can do to make a tangible difference to local communities. After all, this summer’s Olympics may have helped us to inspire a generation of young people, but now is the time to help employ one.
Mark Boleat is policy chairman at the City of London Corporation.