Boris can take the lead on entry-level jobs for the young unemployed

The Mayor of London should explain what he is doing to provide entry-level jobs for young people locked out of the workforce. The scale of the problem is huge.

Darren Johnson AM represents the Green Party in the London Assembly

Young people have suffered a rough ride in recent years with record unemployment compounded by the cuts to education, training and employment programmes. That’s why I abled a question yesterday asking the Mayor of London what he is doing to provide entry-level jobs for young people locked out of the workforce.

The scale of the problem is huge. Youth unemployment (for 16-24 year olds) has been stuck at record levels.

In the years since 1992 (when the statistical record begins) up to the recession it averaged 14% in the UK – but since 2008 has rocketed and now stands at 19.7%, a slight increase on last month’s figure.

Furthermore, data published recently by the Association of Graduate Recruiters shows there are now 83 graduates competing for every entry-level vacancy in the UK.

The Mayor has made an impact with his apprenticeship programme, working in partnership with the National Apprenticeship Service, to find 28,120 people places on schemes with companies in the capital.

He has also led by example, aiming to create 3,000 apprenticeship places within the Greater London Authority, Transport for London, the London Development Agency, the Metropolitan Police Service and the London Fire Brigade, the bodies that comprise the GLA group.

But those apprenticeships will only ever be part of the answer. Apprentices currently comprise only 1% of the total GLA group workforce (totalling around 86,000 employees). There are thousands of other positions that could be filled by young people fresh out of school, college and university who lack prior experience.

When I asked the Mayor how many entry-level jobs the GLA group offers last month, I was struck by the varied definitions and approaches. Apparently 60% of jobs in the Fire Brigade are “entry-level” because they are the first rung on the ladder. But only helpdesk and administrator roles in City Hall qualify, comprising 4.7% of the workforce.

The Centre for Social Justice recently published a report (pdf) recommending positive steps that employers can take to provide more entry-level jobs, support applicants and establish a stronger culture of mentoring and personal development.

A good first step for the Mayor would simply be to develop a consistent approach across the GLA group. A single definition could go into human resources policies, and senior managers could be asked to review ways in which young people might currently be locked out of vacancies.

Promoting this approach to London’s employers won’t solve the problems faced by young people locked out of employment, education or training. But it could help some who are faced with unfair recruitment policies.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.