Thank you for inviting me here to speak at your summit today – it’s fantastic to see employers opening their doors to young people and giving them vital experience of the workplace.
Some of you will have participated in the initial Feeding Britain’s Future endeavour last year, and will already have pledged your support to this year’s programme.
For some of you this will be new ground, and you may be looking to identify the benefits for your organisation; wondering what the return on investment is for you.
You have heard from various people today from both the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) and employers themselves, showing you the business benefits of Feeding Britain’s Future. You heard earlier from Martin Brown, who put some of the context and the merits of the programme and working with Jobcentre Plus into your mind. I really want to echo and reiterate that message, whilst also telling you some of my personal thinking on why an initiative like Feeding Britain’s Future makes sound business sense. I know IGD members are also interested in hearing how the government is promoting youth employment, and how we can work together to tackle this critical issue.
First, I’d like to say how delighted I am that IGD and the employers here today can provide this kind of offering to support wider youth employment. IGD provided a fantastic Feeding Britain’s Future event last year, giving young people the opportunity to work in the food business. You heard this morning from Asda, Morrisons, Marshfield Bakery and the Co-operative about their experience of Feeding Britain’s Future. Last year at FBF 2012 we saw some fantastic support. Eighty employers offered over 10,000 places for young people. Many of these young people went on to gain employment.
The fact that this is during a challenging period for the economy is vital and commendable. It’s a testament to the success of employers like you that we’ve continued to see rising numbers of people in work. It’s also worth emphasising how far we’ve come since early 2010.
Nationally there are over 900,000 more people in work. There are 1.3 million more people in private sector jobs, and the private sector is creating opportunities at a faster rate than the public sector is contracting. There are fewer – yes fewer – people claiming the main welfare benefits – down by over 300,000 since May 2010.
And the latest data is positive; the numbers on Jobseeker’s Allowance continue to fall … driven by an improving situation for young people – the youth claimant count has been falling for a year. This is good news, but you and I know that we can’t be complacent. Youth unemployment is a difficult and long-term issue, with the rate of youth unemployment remaining stubbornly high for the last 5 years or so – between 2008 and the election it went from below 700,000 up to almost 950,000.
You heard Martin Brown talk about the ‘Employers from Mars and young people from Venus’ scenario, and the issues of no experience … no job. To tackle this, we’ve embedded work experience into our Youth Contract, offering 100,000 places every year. We know that it’s working, because independent research has shown you’re far more likely to come off benefits afterwards if you take part. Our assessments show that nearly half of people who go on work experience are off benefits 21 weeks later. This is good for them and good for the country. Feeding Britain’s Future mirrors the government’s endeavours to reduce youth unemployment perfectly.
Of course, like so much that we do, we can only do it in partnership. I know there are employers sat around the room who already work successfully with Jobcentre Plus. For those who don’t, Feeding Britain’s Future can give you a taster of what Jobcentre Plus offers, both at a national and regional level. Jobcentre plus offers a bespoke service which beds in with your HR structure wherever possible.
As an example of how an employer has developed since participation in Feeding Britain’s Future last year, I’d like to point to Morrison’s: you heard earlier from Paul Dowd and Nick Rowe. I had the pleasure of hearing Nick speak at a DWP employer event at the end of April. Morrison’s did some fantastic work to support Feeding Britain’s Future last year, which you have already heard about. What their participation also did was to cement their Jobcentre Plus relationship, through which we have been able to support them in structuring their ‘Our club’ programme. This utilises our cash Wage Incentive, available to employers who recruit an 18 to 24 year-old from the Work Programme or via Jobcentre Plus.
Feeding Britain’s Future is more than just a one month endeavour. It can feature as part of your wider recruitment approach, and Jobcentre Plus can support and help you to make this happen.
Martin Brown, picked this up earlier, but I want to stress that we are both keen to improve the quality of our engagement with, and services for employers. I’m aware that for some of you who participated last year and are still to pledge this year might want to raise the consistency of the level of service provided by Jobcentre Plus .
I attended an opening of Premier Inn recently in Waterloo. Through that very close relationship with Jobcentre Plus, Premier Inn found the right people to work for that business. The opening has provided jobs for 40 people, around half of which have gone to those between the ages of 16 to 24 and the long term unemployed. Overall, Premier Inn has recruited 1,100 people over the past year. There are some real success stories there, and I am keen to make sure every employer has a Premier Inn level of service.
I also want to put Feeding Britain’s Future, and the importance of close partnerships between employers and Jobcentre Plus, in context.
Youth unemployment which has been steadily rising since 2008. For any young person who is able to work to be out of a job is a tragedy. It is a tragedy for the individual, who finds themselves unable to get on in life. It is a tragedy for their family, who have to motivate and support them, and it is a tragedy for the country, which is missing out on a huge amount of untapped talent. And I know that our young people are talented. The vast majority of young people are hard working. They are ambitious … and, above all, they have great potential.
I mentioned Morrison’s earlier in connection with the wage invcentive. To give you more detail, the government will offer 160,000 wage incentives worth up to £2,275 each to employers who recruit an 18 to 24 year-old from the Work Programme or via Jobcentre Plus.
The aim of the wage incentive is to motivate employers into giving young jobless people a chance in a weaker market by encouraging them to fill vacancies with young people. This is at a time when they might be overlooked because of a lack of skills or experience and the scheme can therefore help reduce the scarring that young people face as a result of a recession. This is different to previous offers and is about helping young people to move into real, sustainable jobs.
We’ve also made more apprenticeships available, offered more support to the most hard to reach young people – those who might otherwise slip through the net and begin a life on benefits. But we need local businesses to support these schemes – employers who will invest in training, give someone a work experience placement, or employ a young person. If our young people are to have a chance, then you need to give them a chance.
In the breakout sessions you will hear how employers are working with IGD and Jobcentre Plus and maximising their relationships. You will also have the opportunity to share good practice and meet Jobcentre Plus colleagues to start those conversations about how you can utilise our services to better support young people.
So I encourage you all to continue your good work, in partnership with Jobcentre Plus. If there are some of you who haven’t yet pledged your support to Feeding Britain’s Future, do so today.
Whether you are big or small, multinational or a local start-up: make use of the schemes we have in place. Work with us to help give a young person a chance: to get their foot on the ladder, to help your business grow, and to give young people a chance to prove to you what they can do.