Being paid the London Living Wage is one thing. Actually finding that work in the first place is often even more difficult for Croydon’s thrusting young people. The old vicious circle of employers requiring “experience”, but how do you gain experience without getting that job in the first place..?
Brandon Schloss is studying at Coulsdon College. When he was looking to make his first step towards employment, he had to travel all the way to Gatwick just to get a Saturday job.
But now, working as part of the Croydon Citizens youth organisation, the council has established First Step as a work experience brokerage within the borough so that youngsters such as Schloss can get that vital breakthrough into the world of the workplace closer to home.
Schloss and some of his colleagues from Croydon Citizens made presentations to the council cabinet meeting on Monday night, where the First Steps programme was agreed with support from both sides of the Town Hall chamber.
“Croydon is a borough that is changing,” Schloss told the councillors. “We can see opportunities all around us. While that is exciting, many young people fear that we won’t benefit from these opportunities.
“We asked 300 young people what the biggest issue impacting them was and more than three-quarters said jobs and employability. This is why we started our First Step Croydon campaign to ensure young people in Croydon have access to high-quality work experience and leave education job-ready.
“Our campaign is our generation’s fight to enter skilled jobs . It’s a fight for fairness. It’s a fight to sustain our town’s economic growth,” Schloss said.
“We first got employers in Croydon to offer more work experience placements. It is great to see the council lead by example and exceed your pledge of 50 placements. I did work experience with the council last week and it was brilliant.
“I’m very grateful but we want all young people in Croydon to have an opportunity to learn and develop. That’s why we have worked with Councillor Jamie Audsley to run a local action mini-review to see what would need to be done in the Croydon to make this a reality.”
Audsley, a councillor for Bensham Manor ward, said, “The purpose of the local action mini review was to get to the heart of what needs to be done in Croydon to make the journey from education to employment work effectively and for everyone. While excellent practice to prepare our young people for work is happening in some places, it is not widespread.
“For our young people trying to climb to a skilled job, too many find there is no route to do so.”
Through the Citizens UK network, Audsley has been working with Barclays Bank, and Hammerson and Westfield, the Croydon Partnership, among others, putting them in closer contact with the borough’s schools and colleges to try to provide more opportunities in work experience.
“The key recommendations of our research is that Croydon needs is a means of education institutions and employers working more closely together to deliver for our young people,” Audsley said.
“Croydon is an amazing place full of talent and resources. If we can harness those resources and ensure we are pulling in the same direction we can achieve great things and set an example for others to follow. It need not cost more money, there’s the ability for us to align resource and budgets here.
“That’s why our main recommendation is that there be an affordable and effective education to employment brokerage to bring together employers and education institutions to ensure that all our young people have access to high-quality work experience.
“If we’re serious about raising our town’s productivity; boosting our young people’s incomes and ensuring social mobility – we’ll take the steps to ensure we get employability skills and, especially, work experience right,” Audsley said.
“First Step Croydon is about addressing this by ensuring schools, colleges, employers and the council work together, so that Croydon youngsters have the necessary skills to find work.”
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