Prime minister David Cameron backs Norwich For Jobs campaign
- Credit: PA
The prime minister has given an ambitious campaign to dramatically cut youth unemployment in Norwich his backing.
Norwich For Jobs was launched last week with the aim of reducing the number of 18 to 24-year-olds claiming Job Seekers' Allowance by half – or 1,000 people – in just two years.
Now David Cameron has become the highest profile name to join the ever-growing band of supporters of the initiative.
In a letter to Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, who is spearheading the campaign alongside a steering group of key Norfolk figures as part of the Norwich Foundation For Jobs, the prime minister said he would be 'delighted to support this initiative'.
He added: 'I am delighted to hear about the Norwich Foundation For Jobs and wish everyone involved the best of success in helping your people into work.
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'Investing in our young people is vital to help them achieve their aspirations and ensure Britain can compete in the global race.
'This is a great example of local government, colleges and employers working in partnership to get our young people into work.'
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The Norwich Foundation For Jobs hopes Mr Cameron's backing will give a further boost to the rapidly rising profile of the campaign.
Already businesses including Heatrae Sadia, Chapelfield shopping centre, and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital have pledged their support for the initiative.
They hope to be able to offer a wide range of opportunities – from apprenticeships and pre-employment training to work experience and mock interviews – to young people which will dramatically improve their chances of finding a job.
Miss Smith said: 'It's absolutely great to get support from the prime minister for Norwich For Jobs. It underlines how important the campaign is and I hope it will encourage more employers to get involved.
'It also underlines just how passionate everybody is about helping young people.
'I'm really delighted at the level of support we have already had after launching it on Friday. I always knew that a city like ours would be as passionate as I am about getting young people.'
Dick Palmer, a member of the NFJ steering group and chief executive of City College Norwich and the Transforming Education in Norfolk federation, said Mr Cameron's support recognised the many groups and organisations getting behind the campaign.
He said: 'I think it's fantastic. The prime minister giving his blessing to our campaign ratchets it up a notch.
'He's clearly got the uniqueness of the partnership behind it and understands that this is a grassroots community project that's come, not from any policy, but from people who want to make a difference.
'For him to recognise that and support it is great news.'
The campaign's five steering group members – Miss Smith, Mr Palmer, EDP editor Nigel Pickover, Andrew Barnes, senior partner at Howes Percival, and Julia Nix, regional manager for Job Centre Plus – came together after seeing how difficult it had become for young people to compete with experienced workers for jobs.
Before the recession kicked in in 2008, there were about 1,000 18 to 24-year-olds claiming Job Seekers' Allowance in the Norwich Job Centre Plus area which covers the Norwich City Council area and surrounding villages.
But by February 2009, that had shot up to 2,000.
Since then, youth unemployment has peaked at about 2,400 for the Norwich area and remained stubbornly around the 2,000-mark – or above – for the past three years.
Mr Barnes said, by getting involved with Norwich For Jobs, businesses could benefit just as much as the young people they help. He said: 'It goes without saying that the lifebloody of any business is its workforce and the most effective way to get and keep the people a business needs for the future is to develop its staff, supported by training, in the right skills and standards and in its values.
'Young talent will give any business a boost by bringing fresh ideas, energy and enthusiasm so there is a good business case for supporting our young people and giving them a fair chance.'