I had the pleasure of attending the BEST Network’s (a consortium of over 70 third sector learning and employment training providers) Advance Programme Launch yesterday.
The morning’s event was held at the Bordesley Centre in Camp Hill and was attended by over 100 (estimate) delegates and exhibitions from around 10 of the Network’s employability training providers, providing plenty of networking opportunities.
The Advance Programme
Delegates got to hear about the Advance programme from a range of speakers including, the Chair Richard Beard; CEO Dan Freshwater and two of the Network’s Advance Programme delivery organisations Carole Gallant from Create a Future and Robert Brown, CEO of Merlin Venture. We also heard about Birmingham City Council’s commitment to tackling young people’s unemployment from Shilpi Akbar – Assistant Director BCC Development and Culture Directorate and a keynote speech on “Tackling Long Term Youth Unemployment ” from the Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP and it was this that highlighted to me that Birmingham’s commitment and pledge of resources (around £2m) is woefully short when comparing the statistics with other “forward thinking councils” around the UK.
However, before we get into a little bit of the statistics presented by the Rt Hon Liam Byrne, let’s first highlight the good stuff about what BEST Network is doing with the Advance Programme.
The Advance Programme is a DWP funded “pay by results” programme of support for NEET young people aged between 14 and 24. The programme is financed by Advanced Personnel Management (APM UK). This means that assuming the Network delivery partners meet their targets and outcomes then:
- They get a funded programme of support that makes a difference to young people employability prospects
- The BEST Network gets credit for managing a complex and new style contract more suited to large “primes”
- APM get their investment back and make a reasonable profit on their investment.
There are obviously other benefits, but I’m not trying to list them all here. What I’d like to do is highlight that if you are in touch with NEET young people in Birmingham and Solihull and aren’t aware of the programme and therefore the funded support it offers for Birmingham and Solihull’s young people then contact the BEST Network, it may go some way to helping some of the young people you work / are in contact with get employment.
Now to the “are we doing enough” bit.
Many of us will know that Sir Albert Bore (Leader of BCC) made a pledge to redress young people’s unemployment in Birmingham and to this end has pledged £2m to support this agenda. Now I’m not scoffing at £2m, nor am I saying it is easy to find in the current economic climate where there are significant cuts, as the £2m pledged will undoubtedly mean £2m taken from elsewhere.
Now in addition to this there is of course other money that has been pledged to support the NEET agenda, and that is the Talent Match programme which in Birmingham and Solihull could see another £1.2m lottery money each year for five years. Then of course there’s national money such as apprenticeship programmes etc.
But when you consider that Glasgow is “investing £24m in paid work opportunities over two years” and ”nearly 40% of the people seeking work in the UK are under 25″ and “Birmingham is “Britain’s youth unemployment capital” (Liam Byrne MP), then Birmingham’s commitment falls almost into insignificance.
Now of course we know, and I agree, with Liam Byrne that “prioritising the fight to get people back into jobs” (particularly young people) is an important one, and it has been “disappointing how the Third Sector has been treated in the Work Programme” because the “Third Sector, can bring services together in a unique way, (which) makes the Third Sector an important partner” in tackling young people’s’ unemployment because, “it reaches corners of our communities, that mainstream provision doesn’t”.
However, in order to do this (really tackle young people’s’ unemployment), we need long-term investment at a scale that is proportionate to the level of the problem, and we need to ensure that there is innovation in the service provision and effective monitoring and quality.
So in conclusion
Glasgow, well done you’re stepping up to the plate and moving in the right direction and Birmingham, you’ve made commitment which is great, but let’s find a way of gaining more investment, ensuring that we provide quality provision (i.e. not the usual suspects) and ensure the Third Sector is at the forefront and treated with the respect it deserves for its skills and abilities it has in tackling unemployment.