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Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Back To School?

Chris Fletcher, Policy Director at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

A real mixed bag of a week last week with a number of highs (unemployment), lows (inflation) and the swings and roundabouts of business issues coming out of our member committees.

The figures for unemployment were not surprising but were desperately worrying as the upward trend continued. The upside of the week was the easing of inflation with the dropping out of last year's VAT rise. Whilst both changes had been anticipated for some time the former especially still made for unpleasant reading.

The whole subject of unemployment especially youth unemployment has really been under the microscope recently with the issues discussed at our Chamber Council meeting in January and, following this, our Employment and Skills committee which met on Thursday. Part of the issue is the fact that this has been around for a number of generations with current circumstances really concentrating the damage being done. It would be very easy to skim off the most recently impacted with some short-term subsidised activity, but the view from our members is that this approach doesn't deliver the longer term impact needed not just to alleviate the problem but, more importantly, give business the access they demand to a properly trained and effective work force. Of course, if the demand for the jobs isn't there in the first place no matter what you do the problem will not be resolved. Add in the seemingly never ending issue of a lack of the right skills and a lack of "work-readiness" and there is a perfect storm raging which coupled with sluggish growth prospects does not bode well.

One possible solution that came out of the Employment and Skills committee was to look at how business can really make an impact on young people whilst they are still in school. Not just in later years but when they start secondary school - year 7 in new money. This is going to be discussed by members at our Local Council meetings over the next few weeks.Building on some good work already taking place in Stockport we will be looking for ideas to stop the talking and start taking action on this key issue. I'd be interested to hear your views on this and if you're interested in finding out more about the Chambers Local Council near you then visit for more information.

This is just one issue that we are working on at present, a major one at that but it is a crucial part of our Action For Business work. Click here to find out more and get involved.

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