Leeds is leading the way in helping young people to get into work, according to a senior politician.
Labour’s Liam Byrne pointed to the partnership between Leeds City Council and construction firm BAM that has seen 90 apprentices trained during the building of the Leeds Arena as an example others councils could follow.
The Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary was given a tour of the Arena site yesterday during a visit to West Yorkshire.
He said: “Leeds is breaking new ground in the business of getting young people back to work and as a country we now confront a youth unemployment emergency.
“We have got nearly 1m young people out of work where the Government is making very little progress at bringing that number down.
“There’s a goal here of getting 15,000 apprentices over the next few years and the apprenticeship agency that was launched in November is a shining example of how Labour councils are now making a difference in an economy that is going through some very tough times.”
Mr Byrne heaped praise on the Arena, which is due to open later this year, describing it as a “bold and imaginative project” that will make a “huge difference” to Leeds.
During his visit, the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury also met apprentices in Wakefield and spoke to councillors and council officials.
Wakefield Council leader Peter Box said: “Youth unemployment has dropped in the district, however it still remains a significant issue. Tackling this is one of our key priorities.
“We have already run a number of initiatives to create apprenticeship opportunities including the Wakefield Apprenticeship Challenge which secured 197 pledges to support new apprenticeship places from 64 businesses.
“We are also working closely with the city deals fund to set up a new apprenticeship hub to create an additional 300 opportunities, as well as working in partnership with Jobcentre Plus to support the delivery of enterprise clubs.”
Labour is expected to publish proposals in the next few weeks on how councils can be given new powers so they can do more to tackle youth unemployment.