Youth unemployment doubled in East during Covid-19 pandemic

By Nic Rigby
BBC Politics East

image captionBBC Politics East found the biggest percentage leap in youth unemployment was in Hertfordshire (195%)

Youth unemployment has increased by 133% in the East of England since the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, new figures have revealed.

The number of people aged 16-24 claiming unemployment-related benefits rose from 20,580 to 48,020 between March and December 2020.

The biggest percentage leap - at 195% - was in Hertfordshire, BBC Politics East found.

Apprenticeships are one route young people can take out of unemployment.

Erin Bradshaw, 23, of Surlingham, Norfolk, finished at King's College London with a first-class degree in French and German last year and has been looking for a job ever since.

"I don't know anybody who has found a job since graduating last year. I have a degree in languages and since then I have so far applied for more than 200 jobs," she said.

"The vast majority of jobs I haven't heard back from. Some jobs I have had interviews for but at the last step somebody has more experience than me, and these are entry-level jobs.

"Getting a job is the one thing that will allow me to move on. If I get a job I can move into a flat-share. I can leave home."

image captionErin Bradshaw, 23, of Surlingham, Norfolk, has applied for 200 jobs since graduating

In the Budget the government announced £126m for the expansion of traineeships in England for the 2021-22 academic year, providing up to 43,000 traineeship placements.

This will fund high quality work placements and training for 16 to 24-year-olds who are not in education, employment or training, it said.

Employers who hire a new apprentice from 1 April to 30 September will receive £3,000 per new hire.

Apprenticeships are popular in the East of England, where 32,300 apprentices started their apprenticeship during the 2019-20 academic year.

Poppy Able, an EDF Energy degree apprentice with the engineering department at Sizewell B power station in Suffolk, said she was pleased to take the apprenticeship option.

"I know quite a lot of people who have become unemployed or perhaps furloughed, whereas I am quite secure in my apprenticeship," said Ms Able, who had studied Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham, Suffolk.

image copyrightEDF
image captionPoppy Able decided to become an EDF Energy degree apprentice at Sizewell B power station in Suffolk

Brer Cornish, a fourth-year apprentice at Sizewell B, said: "I chose an EDF maintenance apprenticeship to have a hands-on job while gaining qualifications at the same time.

"I enjoy the dynamic nature of the job where no two days are the same. The main benefit was to gain skills and an education while I'm earning as well."

Suffolk New College in Ipswich saw a dip in the number of firms taking on apprentices last year, but has seen a resurgence this year.

Kate Rupp, from Suffolk New College, said: "We have had a high demand in construction - in plumbing, engineering, carpentry and joinery. As we re-open the economy there are going to be lots of opportunities for young people."

Politics East airs on BBC One in the East on Sunday 28 February at 10:00 GMT and can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer afterwards.

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