Breaking Down Barriers: Working Towards Birmingham's Future

Published: Thursday, 22nd July 2021

Council bosses today vowed young people in Birmingham will not become a left behind generation, after youth unemployment almost doubled during the Covid pandemic.

With almost one in five economically active 18-24 year olds out of work, Birmingham City Council has joined forces with almost 2,000 young people from communities across the city, plus a range of partners in education, business and other frontline services, to develop an urgent 10-point action plan which aims to prevent a new ‘crisis cohort’ facing long-term damage to their careers and lives. 

Many of the young people surveyed told of economic hardship, mental health challenges and growing fears for the future, while others did not feel they had the skills and knowledge needed to kickstart their careers.

Their experiences have helped shape Breaking Down Barriers: Working Towards Birmingham's Future - a comprehensive report and action plan to tackle the growing crisis.

Launching the report, Cllr Brigid Jones, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council said: “When the pandemic struck it became immediately clear that, here in Birmingham, our young people were going to bear the brunt of the economic impact which followed. The disruption to education and the service industry meant that many young people found their lives effectively put on hold.

“We wanted to understand the challenges, so we spoke to almost 2,000 young people across the city, and the responses showed that, for many, the pandemic has impacted on every aspect of their lives. Some young people found themselves facing homelessness; others said their mental health had been impacted, with some tragically telling us that they considered suicide at points during the lockdowns.

“These 2,000 conversations, alongside those with businesses, education providers and other partners have helped us develop an action plan which will prevent a left-behind generation from being created.”

Birmingham's youth unemployment has risen significantly during the pandemic from 6.3 per cent in February 2020 to 11.6 per cent by March 2021, with almost one in five economically active 18-24 year olds out of work.

Today's report recommends 10 key actions to tackle the growing crisis, including:

  • Reducing the cost of public transport for 16 to 18 year olds
  • Reshaping careers advice and guidance services
  • Creating a ‘one stop shop’ in the form of an online hub showcasing opportunities for 16-24 year olds looking for work experience and employment opportunities.
  • Supporting young people’s mental health
  • Developing a comprehensive city-wide mentoring scheme

Cllr Jayne Francis, Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Culture, said: “The action plan responds to the experiences of young people in Birmingham and will help to break down the barriers they currently face in accessing education and employment opportunities.

“Businesses and education stakeholders across the city have shaped this report and they will be critical if we are to achieve our ambitious aims. By working together we can help to remove the barriers that are limiting our young people’s ambitions and prevent a left-behind generation from being created.”

Welcoming today’s report, Leader of the council Cllr Ian Ward said: "The good news is that with a host of major regeneration projects either underway or in the pipeline, we are attracting investment and creating significant opportunities in Birmingham. But it's clear that growth alone will not be enough to create genuine inclusive growth.

"Many young people are facing uncertain futures and we must equip them for the opportunities being created, ensuring that they can share in Birmingham's success. This report sets out a blueprint for positive change."

The delivery of recommendations of this report will now be overseen by the City’s new Employment Taskforce, with progress monitored by the Council’s Cabinet. The Employment Taskforce is a Council-led board that includes stakeholders from across the City, with the objective to reduce levels of unemployment in City in all age groups.

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