YET TO SEE: Furlough impacts not felt yet, says Jobcentre boss
One of the 141 new banners to go up around Middlesbrough town centre, Image: Ian Cooper/Teesside Live
A jobcentre boss says the impacts of furlough “haven’t been felt yet” by her teams on Teesside.
Fears were shared about more job losses across the region after the scheme ended at the start of this month.
But Jobcentre manager Cath Robson said they were still yet to see what it would do when it came to demand coming through its doors.
She added: “We weren’t sure of what would happen to the customers and people still on it.
“We’ve not seen an increase yet. Hopefully that will stay as it is and we won’t see that.
“We’ve also not had the 18-24 (unemployment) increase which is fantastic.
“There are vacancies out there but I think there has also been a higher intake at universities.”
Efforts are ongoing to boost employment and skills across the region – with hopes to fills the 133,000 jobs forecast to be available by 2024.
But a combined authority report published in March this year found the pandemic had “exacerbated Tees Valley’s underlying economic weaknesses” – particularly when it came to the area’s labour market and “relative lack of jobs”.
National figures show the number of job vacancies between June and August stood at 1,034,000 – a record level.
Vacancies are also high on Teesside and Ms Robson said the same sectors – distribution warehouses, logistics, security and hospitality – featured highly.
“It’s quite varied and it ranges from low skilled to highest skilled,” she added.
“We were saying last time the increase in people applying for funding for HGVs, logistics, training, offshore and renewable energy has picked up – we’ve seen an increase in that as well this month.
“But I’m not sure if people are fully aware of the funding available for things like that.”
Training struggles and unemployment
Teesside had relatively high levels of unemployment running into the pandemic – with the past 18 months hitting men, the young, and those working in certain industries such as accommodation and food, manufacturing, retail, tourism and culture, particularly hard.
Training has also been a stumbling block for the region.
While the region has its strength in chemicals, energy and advanced manufacturing, a March skills report written by the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) shows the region has an ageing population with higher than average youth unemployment.
The report adds that the number of residents with higher level skills is below national average – and the Tees Valley has a higher than average number of residents with no qualifications.
This dropped in 2020/21 but had risen over the preceding five years.
Ms Robson said the Jobcentre had funding available for training to get qualifications in many sectors – including logistics and renewable energy.
She added: “We do get a lot of people – especially in the older workforce – who’ve been working for the same company for 30 years who might have been an electrician – and got qualifications 30 years ago, but now need certificates.
“It’s making people aware that they might look at the vacancies and think they’re not skilled enough to do that, or I haven’t got what I need for that.
“Come and talk to us and we’ll see what funding we can provide. Our aim is to move people into vacancies that are out there.
“It might be something you’ve never done before or never considered before.”
The Jobcentre boss added there were sector-based work academies where it worked alongside major employers to help workers gain certificates and skills through training courses.
“Then they’ll get a guaranteed interview at the end of that,” added Ms Robson.
“At the minute, the sectors we’re looking at Middlesbrough and Stockton are hospitality, security, childcare, manufacturing, construction, retail, logistics, education.”
On a Roll, Casswells, DX Group, Jurys Inn, Stockton Arc, Middlesbrough Football Club, NE Security and Eventus Security were some of the firms which had taken part, Ms Robson added.
Teesport is also seeing high vacancies – and the manager recommended people registered at the Grangetown hub for those jobs.
“It does change every week – some of them are rolling,” she added.
“We were running them at Amazon at one point and your bigger companies. But then it doesn’t need to be a big company – it can be a small company or just one or two.”
The percentage of 16 to 34-year-olds starting an apprenticeship in the region is consistently higher than the national average.
But the TVCA skills report from March shows numbers starting had dropped by almost a quarter in the space of a year during the pandemic – a higher rate than the national average.
It added: “Apprenticeship starts are almost half what they were three years ago (47% lower) compared to a 35% drop nationally.”
However, Ms Robson believed there had been a rise in people interested.
She added: “We’ve been promoting them a lot more over the past few years and there are some cracking ones out there.
“You’re getting your training and qualifications but you’re getting a wage alongside it which is always a good feeling.”
Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Demcoracy Reporter
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