This week several key businesses in the Shard End Ward, including representatives from the banking, retail transport and manufacturing sector, met along with colleagues from Birmingham City Council and local community organisations to explore how they could all collaborate to support the local economy, help deal with high levels of youth unemployment and address skill shortages in the local area.
The event was hosted by Alcoa Manufacturing (GB) Ltd at their plant in Kitts Green, long time supporters of the local community, and chaired by Brian Summers Chair of The Pump, which provides help and support for youth in Kitts Green. Delegates were given an outline of the City’s aspirations around Social Inclusion, the Young Talent for Business initiative and the Our Place! project being developed in Shard End, which aims to design and deliver local services that focus on local priorities and reduce costs.
Steve Brittan from BSA Machine Tools Ltd, and President of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, gave an inspiring speech on the role businesses could play by providing opportunities for young people. He also stressed the need to change the image of manufacturing which is still seen as being dirty greasy work carried out on a cold factory floor. He proposed entering into a dialogue with schools and colleges to ensure they are providing the correct training for young people to enable them to engage with the manufacturing industry. He also reminded delegates that business can provide the opportunity for self development; as in his own case where he started off as an apprentice on the factory floor but eventually rose to be the managing director conducting business on a world wide stage.
The Community Team from Alcoa outlined the work they do in the neighbourhood through the implementation of their Corporate Social Responsibility programme. As part of this they have entered into partnerships with over 30 local organisations (schools, sports clubs, day care centres etc) to help develop programmes which improve the local area. Alcoa staff also engage with children at the local International School where they help them with their reading and have seen impressive results.
The meeting then heard from businesses present about the challenges they face when it comes to employing young people; such as young people not having the necessary skills, lacking in self confidence and having no understanding of the work ethic required to engage in a daily work regime etc..
One delegate considered the problem to be a moral issue in that the young people he dealt with had an unrealistic expectation from life; they wanted to be pop stars or millionaires without the need to do any work for it, like the Queen song says ‘I want it all and I want it now!’ He blamed the ‘instant gratification’ culture, where young people expected everything to be instant. The idea of thinking and planning for the longer term seemed to be missing from their thinking. Young people need to be taught the value of making long term plans which are supported by their parents and friends.
Monarch Airlines outlined their impressive approach to apprenticeships where they have a policy of interviewing everyone who applies for a job; recently that involved interviewing 650 people! They are keen to meet the individual rather than rely on paper qualifications. This process tends to ensure that the individuals chosen do extremely well during their apprenticeships and become highly valued members of the company.
In a lively discussion delegates contributed further examples of good practice or areas where the current systems need to change in order to make the employment of young people much more straight forward.
All present agreed this was a valuable event and expressed a commitment to work together and try and make a difference for the young people of the Shard End Ward. One of the key next steps will be to meet and hear directly from local young people and what they see as the barriers to work from their point of view.
This event was part of the Action Plan put in place to deliver the recommendations of the SIP White Paper. Commitment 1.2 Develop an approach to ‘locales’. – Locales aim to bring community development and economic development together. It also helps address the proposal to pilot local economic summits in Districts across the city as outlined in the City Council Leader’s Policy Statement 2013.