Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills
Decision – That the oral report of the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills giving an update on “Staffordshire Means Back to Business” activity including the following matters be noted:
· This month saw a decline of 90 claimants in Staffordshire which contrasted with an increase seen nationally. The total number of claimants in the county now stands at 14,955 or 2.8% of the working age population. The claimant count rate in Staffordshire continues to be one of the lowest in the West Midlands and is far lower than the average for the region of 4.9%, and lower than the average for England of 3.8%.
· The youth claimant count in Staffordshire saw an increase of 65 claimants to a total of 2,885 young people. The proportion of young people in Staffordshire aged 18-24 that are claiming work-related Universal Credit now stands at 4.6%. This is lower than the national rate of 5.0% and far lower than the regional rate of 6.7%. The continued increase in the youth claimant count highlights the importance of continuing to engage with our younger residents and support them to find employment or continue in some form of education or training.
· Our Staffordshire Jobs and Careers Service has been focusing on results day recently for both GCSE’s and A-Level students, promoting the support the team can offer with advice and signposting. Our Employment Brokers have been supporting people across the county, whether they have received their grades in order to follow their favoured path, or maybe need some advice on where to turn next and consider other avenues such as employment, apprenticeships or alternative training.
· I am also pleased to report that two members of the Jobs and Careers Service team recently had a visit with the Minister for Social Mobility, Youth and Progression Mims Davis to discuss how they support candidates with challenges in accessing the employment market and our support for ex-service men and women. I’m pleased to say that the Minister was very impressed in our success to date and the companies we work in partnership with to support people into employment.
· In terms of job vacancies, there was a 15% increase in across Staffordshire compared to a 13% increase nationally between July and August. Demand for labour and skills remains high, with there currently being 1.6 jobs available for every claimant within the county, and therefore our focus continues to be to support those who find themselves unemployed to secure one of those jobs.
· Unfortunately, we have recently heard the news of the Wilko insolvency, which is due to the continued impact of the shift in shopping habits across the country. We have convened a taskforce comprised of senior representatives of the County Council, Borough and District Councils, Department for Work & Pensions and the National Careers Service to exchange information and consider our support offer, including the deployment of our Jobs & Careers Services if and when appropriate. Positively, there are currently around 1,000 retail jobs being advertised within the county, and we will work with any former Wilko staff to help them secure one of these jobs or to move into a different area of work.
· The construction of the West Midlands Interchange development is expected to begin before the end of the year. A key aspect of the project will be supporting our residents to take advantage of employment opportunities through both the construction and operational phases, and we were successful in securing a significant amount of funding from the development for employment and skills programmes. Due to the scale of the development, we have a dedicated Employment Broker for the project who has now met with the first sub-contractor to begin recruitment for the first phase of the build.
· The upgrade of the A38 Branston Interchange is a key component of our successful £20m bid from round two of the Levelling Up Fund. This will provide Burtonians with safer and easier access to and from the A38. Legal agreements with the developer of the nearby Branston Locks development and National Highways are also close to being agreed and it is expected will be signed shortly. There is a three-month lead in before construction can start, and we’re therefore expecting works on improving the junction to commence in early 2024. The Levelling Up Fund is also paying for the upgrade of several major roads in Cannock and Stafford and the purchase of a new fleet of low emission buses to improve our public transport network.
The nominations for the Enjoy Staffordshire tourism awards closed last week, with judging taking place over the next few months and the awards ceremony set for March 2024. The awards give us the chance to celebrate our best tourism and hospitality business and the valuable contribution they make to the local economy.