By Donna Smiley
Recent reports on youth unemployment are enough to depress even the most positive young person looking for work. Last month figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that unemployment in Brighton and Hove had gone up by more than 20 per cent in the last six months, and a recent report by the work foundation highlighted Brighton and Hove as having a high number of NEETs (young people aged 18-24 Not in Education, Employment or Training).
Youth Unemployment and NEETs are of particular concern in the city, research by The Prince’s Trust and the Royal Bank of Scotland found that November 2010’s level of NEETs for people aged 20-24 cost £22m per week in JSA, and £22m − £133m per week in lost productivity.
Getting a job in Brighton in the current climate is hard, especially as there are so many highly qualified people, who are taking jobs that they are over-qualified to do. Many young people find themselves stuck in a rut as they are unable to get work as they have no qualifications or experience.
Simon Dyer from The Bridge Centre in Moulsecoomb explained that the area has a high number of people who are educated to level three [equivalent to A Levels]. He said: “People are taking jobs in Starbucks that are level five educated [degree and Postgraduate level] So how do you feel if you’ve not even got your level one reading and writing? You don’t count and that’s the problem.”
Building Futures is one scheme that is proving successful in helping young unemployed people get back into work. Construction is an area which still employees a lot of people in the city and is an area a lot of young people are interested in getting into. The problem is that many building companies are reluctant to take on young people who have no skills.
The scheme is run in association with Brighton & Hove City Council to improve employment prospects for Brighton & Hove jobseekers. Building Futures offers free construction training for unemployed people over the age of 18. The scheme gives people basic training in the trades of: Carpentry, Brickwork, Tiling and Painting and Decorating.
Students will leave the course with a level one qualification, a CSCS Health and Safety card allowing them to legally work on sites, and most importantly two weeks work experience and a reference from a local firm.
Building Futures teaches people skills in a real life construction setting, giving the students invaluable experience, which building companies want and need.
Most of the people who do the course are referred by the Job Centre, the Probation service and the council’s Employability Service. Most are unemployed young men who are from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Construction Lecturer Andy Winter who runs the scheme is a builder by trade and can empathise with the students. He said: “The scheme gives the lads a life skill in the form of a trade, it gives them an end product which they have for life.” As well as teaching the students the trade Andy prides himself on being a role model for the students on the course, like many of them he struggled with academic subjects at school.
Andy said the course gives students a chance to turn their lives around, “A lot of them have life issues and buck their ideas up when they do the course; it gives them something to focus on, and gives them hope for the future.”
Building Futures has established itself in Brighton and Hove by building a reputation with people in the construction business. Everyday Andy is sent a number of jobs which are suitable for his students. Andy and the other lecturers take time to get to know the students to find out what is right for them, he added: “We make a point of getting the right job for the right person.”
Students are also encouraged to find a job that they want, if the lecturers know that they are capable and will give the job 100 per cent they will ring that employer and vouch for that person. Because the scheme has such a good reputation the employer will usually take the person on.
Denne Construction is one of the major construction forms supporting the scheme by giving students on the course the two week placements they require to complete their course. Graham Rye, Denne’s Project Manager at the Hyde Housing Cover’s Yard site told Brightonandhovejobs.com: “The students we took on quickly became part of the team and gained respect from the guys for showing commitment.”
Nicola Sankey, Employer Engagement and Work Placement Officer at City College explained that the Building Futures scheme has been one of the most successful in the country. Approximately four times as many people go straight into employment, compared to the national average. Nicola also explained that when a company seeks planning permission in the city they have to employ a percentage of local residents in their construction team.
The Brighton and Hove Employment Scheme (BHLES) work with developers to make sure that local people get access to training and employment opportunities on major projects in the city. The employment scheme is able to enforce this rule under Section 106 of the Town and Planning Act 1990, which lets Local Planning Authorities dictate criteria such as how many local people will be employed or trained for the duration of the project.
Chris Huges, 19, from Whitehawk has just started Building Futures. He was referred by the Job Centre as a way of getting back into work. Chris has been looking for work on building sites, but they won’t accept him, as he doesn’t have the CSCS card.
Chris left school at 16 to study Level 1 Mechanics, but left the course after his anger management issues caused problems: “It didn’t really work out, I got frustrated with the theory and that.” By completing the course Chris will be gain his CSCS card, and will be able to work for his brothers company as a labourer.
Mark Sykes, 22, from Hove was also referred by the Job Centre after moving to Hove and being unable to find work in the area He has been unemployed for five months. . Since moving Mark has filled numerous applications, which have all had no response: “Companies don’t even get back to you, what’s the point if they can’t even be bothered to get back to you.”
Mark’s girlfriend is expecting their first child and has also been unable to find any work in Brighton, being unemployed has had a negative effect on both of their lives, “I was embarrassed to tell others I was unemployed, it gets you down and you lose your social life cause you can’t afford to go out.”
Mark hopes that the scheme will get him a job being a carpenter and allow him to build a life for himself and allow him to support his family, “I don’t wana be one of them who sit on the couch, I wana make my child know how to live life, how it’s supposed to be.”
There is no doubt that times are hard for young people seeking work, but schemes like Building Futures show that it is possible, even if you have no qualifications and have been unemployed for a long time.