Social enterprise Ahead Partnership is launching a focused, year-round initiative set to support the career aspirations and opportunities of 8,000 secondary school students across Birmingham over the next 18 months.
Funded by John Lewis Partnership Community Investment Fund, the project aims to help young people get a better insight into the career opportunities available in the region with a specific focus on emerging jobs and sectors that are set to see particular growth over the next two decades.
Ahead Partnership will bring together, plan and facilitate the flexible programme of digital, virtual and face-to-face careers and skills activities. Volunteers from a range of local employers across key sectors such as low carbon, health, technology, advanced manufacturing and professional services will lead a host of engaging careers panels; skills workshops; 1:1 interview practice activities; sector insight events; work experience and visits; inspirational speaking slots; and speed networking activities.
With young people from disadvantaged backgrounds comprising 47% of all young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs), and the proportion of disadvantaged young people in Birmingham nearly twice as high as elsewhere in the West Midlands, the initiative makes a crucial regional intervention by inspiring, informing and motivating students regardless of their background.
Stephanie Burras, chief executive at Ahead Partnership, said: “We’re proud to be providing these much-needed employer-led opportunities for young people across Birmingham at this time, so the support from the John Lewis Partnership is very welcome. We’re looking forward to teaming up with dedicated local employers to play a key role in tackling regional challenges; promoting opportunities; and inspiring confidence in the community.”
“Young people are facing incredibly difficult circumstances, and the pandemic is only exacerbating the challenges faced by young people. It is vital that the business community works together to do everything that we can to encourage young people to consider areas where there will be opportunities, and equip them with the skills and confidence to overcome potential barriers to their future and succeed.”
In 2019, the rate of NEET young people in Birmingham was 17%. This is likely to have been heightened by the pandemic, and concerning information about the impact of COVID-19 on jobs and skills in the area has suggested that in July 2020, the top nine wards in the West Midlands Combined Authority with the highest number of people claiming unemployment benefits were based in Birmingham. As such, this new programme aims to provide pivotal local support by increasing knowledge of roles and local growth sectors; developing skills that employers value; improving understanding of and readiness for the working world; building connections and confidence; and linking young people to apprenticeship opportunities and routes through FE and HE.
In line with regional needs, the initiative will help signpost young people to sectors that have opportunities going forwards. These are identified in the Strategic Economic Plan of the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, which spans areas from health technologies and life sciences to digital technologies including AI.
This programme follows six years of successful work across the West Midlands for Ahead Partnership, which includes supporting over 13,000 young people and working with over 100 different employers in Birmingham alone. Having also made an influential impact upon the business community, 94% of volunteers involved in Birmingham activity over the last two academic years said that they would recommend taking part in Ahead Partnership’s programmes.