Leeds council chiefs to discuss progress of improved jobs programme

Leeds, Leeds Star

The progress of a Leeds project which aims to create new and improved job opportunities in the city will be considered by senior councillors at a meeting next week.

At the meeting of Leeds City Council’s executive board on September 21, councillors will consider an update on the ‘More Jobs, Better Jobs’ project. This has been informed by the ongoing research partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership.

The research focused on ways of tackling inequality by offering new employment and job improvement opportunities to help lift people and places out of poverty, reflecting the council’s commitment to Leeds being a compassionate city with a strong economy.

Published and ongoing studies are helping to shape action on the four key elements of the project: Tackling low pay, regenerating places, a life ready for learning preparing young people for work, and backing innovators and entrepreneurs.

On low pay, the council has committed to supporting its lower paid staff, paying a minimum of £8.01 per hour from April with plans to increase the lowest rate to £8.25 before the end of the financial year. This is in line with the Living Wage as defined by the Living Wage Foundation and is higher than the government’s National Minimum Living Wage.

The council is also looking to influence other employers in its supply chain and in the city to promote the benefits of progression and skills training for staff leading to improved business performance.

The work on regenerating places has focused on improving the prospects of people living in the most deprived neighbourhoods in the city and region. In Leeds more than 2,000 jobs have been delivered focusing on people from disadvantaged areas by embedding employment and skills obligations into contracts and planning agreements. This approach has seen jobs and apprenticeships secured at the Victoria Gate development during its construction and with the John Lewis Partnership which will be the flagship store at the new retail centre.

In order to help those in disadvantaged communities who are out of work due to health issues, the council is now working with Clinical Commissioning Groups and specialist third sector providers on a pilot project to integrate mental health and employment support in community jobshops.

A life ready for learning is aimed at strengthening careers advice, knowledge and workplace skills for young people and building links with employers to promote increased knowledge of the wide range of changing career opportunities including higher and degree level apprenticeships.

Support to schools to enable them to offer up to date and impartial careers information has been reviewed and realigned following discussions with stakeholders and businesses, with the aims of assisting the transition from education to employment and developing stronger links between schools and businesses.

In addition a new 14-week programme is to begin shortly offering tailored support, skills assessments and training, and paid work experience for young people leaving care who are not in employment, education or training (NEET).

The final element identified is backing innovators and entrepreneurs, with is based on creating and growing businesses through knowledge and new ideas, as well as retaining more graduate talent in Leeds.

This is to be achieved by developing closer links with 150 businesses in Leeds, developing closer ties with the universities and businesses and encouraging graduates to remain in the city through actions such as the Digital Skills Action Plan which aims to meet the current demand for skilled new employees in the growing digital sector.

The council is also committed to supporting innovation through the proposed city centre Innovation District connecting the research strengths of the universities and Leeds General Infirmary. Encouraging and backing new business start-ups and business growth is also a key priority, with support and advice being offered to access emerging technologies. Financial support is also available through elements such as investment grants, discretionary rates relief while the council also offers advice on protecting intellectual property.

Leeds City Council executive member for employment, skills and opportunity Councillor Mohammed Rafique said:

“The ‘More Jobs, Better Jobs’ programme has made a promising start, and we are very grateful to all the partners and businesses we are working with for their commitment to try and tackle the skills and employment issues we have in Leeds and the wider region.

“It is hugely important for the Leeds economy that the city is not only seen as an attractive place for businesses to be, but that people of all backgrounds in the city and especially young people have the opportunity for work, skills and training to find jobs and then develop their careers. The future of Leeds as a city looks very strong but it is vital that everyone plays their part in delivering that success and benefiting from it.”