Council apprenticeships and ‘taster’ schemes proposed to tackle unemployment

Councils should create more apprenticeships and ‘work taster’ programmes in response to rising unemployment, according to a council leader’s report, which has achieved ministerial approval.

The report by Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council leader Stephen Houghton argues that local government should provide 50,000 apprenticeship places by 2011, as well as 75,000 ‘work taster’ places to unemployed people, providing on-the-job experience.

The report comes as councils across the country are shedding jobs because of falling revenue. In February, Leeds City Council said it planned to cut about 650 jobs over the next year. A survey by the Times also found that 40,000 council jobs could be lost this year.

Houghton said councils should pool financial support from both local and central government to combat unemployment in theway they see best.

Local government minister John Healey and employment minister Tony McNulty welcomed the report, and confirmed £3m extra funding to “kick–start preparations” for the expected changes.

The ministers promised to create a new national forum, which will bring together government departments, councils and other local organisations to support the implementation of Houghton’s recommendations.

Councils should also conduct an assessment of local unemployment by the middle of 2009, the report recommended, assessing the impact of the recession on the most vulnerable groups who may be disproportionately affected and need innovative forms of support.

Houghton said: “Councils must urgently make an assessment of their local situation and plan how to help get people the right training and, working with Jobcentre Plus, make sure they have as many opportunities as possible to get jobs quickly.”

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