West Midlands businesses were today urged to step forward in order to help prevent young people getting involved in future riots.
The rallying cry was made by John Ling and comes after an approach to tackling the recent disorder stalled due to a lack of a clear vision on how to engage with local youths who are struggling with a lack of skills and unemployment.
The Chief Executive of the region’s education business partnership believes the answer lies in less consultation, reducing the number of brokers looking after their own interests and the development of a robust plan that companies can buy into and start delivering.
“We have all been extremely slow to react to the troubles we saw in the summer and I class Government, local councils, the third sector and business in this collective ‘we’,” explained John.
“A strategy for working with young people and business volunteering has not yet been sorted and, in the meantime, a few token ‘on the ground’ initiatives have yet to deliver real sustainable benefit.”
He continued: “Schools and the third sector aren’t going to hold the answer and the Government’s National Citizenship scheme will be just a drop in the ocean when you consider that this new programme supported just 10,000 nationally this year.
“That leaves the way forward in the hands of the business community in the West Midlands. And why not, after all they stand to gain the most tangible benefits from engaging with young people and providing access to positive role models?”
Ling said the need for a region-wide charter to be put in place is crucial and social media could be used to disseminate and secure buy-in from all parties.
In terms of hands-on support, he singled out the need to harness business knowledge, experience and resource to help young people develop skills, raise aspirations and provide greater employment opportunities.
Training more business volunteers and mentors and then matching them with schools is a good starting point and there is an urgent need to develop an efficient signposting service that offers a single gateway to all the advice and support.
“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, funding simply won’t allow that,” added John.
“BXL already run www.youxl.co.uk, a website and resource base created to provide trusted and crucial information for young people. This is soon to be expanded to support businesses and educators online for volunteering and careers information.
“Education Partnership Centres, such as those seen at Jaguar Land Rover and Redcliffe Catering, also offer a great way of engaging with large numbers of young people. These onsite venues provide vocational learning and insight to more than 25,000 individuals a year and if we can get more employers on board this figure could quickly dwarf the Government’s own National Service.
“Let’s also look at giving young people the chance to shape their future by creating and facilitating groups where they can help influence future policy.”
BXL is currently working with the local council on creating a hub for all of this activity at Birmingham Wheels, where a major Birmingham-based construction business has already pledged to provide temporary buildings.
However, 18 month-old plans to turn it into an enterprise/employability zone focused on vehicles have been hit by internal arguments and political uncertainty.
John concluded: “The message is simple. The West Midlands needs to come together as one, provide the strategy and let business drive the support. Importantly, we need to do it now and not leave it till we are picking up the pieces again from the Riots of 2012 and beyond.”
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