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Leaders experience unemployment first hand

Twenty leaders from the private and public sector left their offices for the day to get a better understanding of long-term youth unemployment in the Rhyl area (Wednesday 4 October).

Senior figures from businesses including Airbus, HMP Berwyn, North Wales Police, Wockhardt UK, Wynne Construction and Denbighshire County Council joined Stephen Stewart (Distribution Director, SP Energy Networks) on a Prince’s Seeing is Believing visit in Rhyl, coordinated by Business in the Community Cymru, to see first-hand the potential role employers can play in addressing the range of challenges around unemployment in the area.

The Prince’s Seeing is Believing programme was born from a simple but powerful idea; to close the understanding gap between boardrooms and local communities. On this occasion, delegates visited Jobcentre Plus in Rhyl and Blessed Edward Jones RC High School to better understand the issues around and potential solutions to long-term youth unemployment in this part of Wales.

At Jobcentre Plus delegates had the opportunity to sit down with a team of Work Coaches and Jobcentre clients to discuss what the transition to Universal Credit means and what the potential role of responsible employers could be during this period. At Blessed Edward Jones, the delegates were put in the hot seat by pupils during a face-to-face speed networking session, giving the young people an opportunity to get answers to the questions they wanted.

Engaging with schools is shown to improve the life chances of young people. Research from the Education & Employers Taskforce shows that higher numbers of employer engagement opportunities in schools (typically four or more) can help to reduce the chances of becoming NEET by 86%. The research also shows that young adults who took part in these kinds of activities earned up to 16.4% more than peers who did not take part in any employer engagement (Education & Employers Taskforce, 2017).

Stephen Stewart, Distribution Director at SP Energy Networks and Seeing is Believing Leader said:

“Today has been about understanding more about issues in our local communities – sometimes right on our doorstep – and working out what the role of responsible employers could be in beginning to address them.

“Businesses, including SP Energy Networks, want to work with the talented individuals that bring new experiences and ideas to our business. We have skills challenges within our own business. So it makes sense to think about how we engage with the issues around unemployment in the local area to see if we can get people out of that cycle and starting to re-join the labour market.

“We know we can’t fix everything but by working together with partners in the voluntary and public sectors and by sharing our expertise, knowledge and passion we can support people to take a first step towards employment.”

Matt Appleby, Director at Business in the Community Cymru said:

“The Seeing is Believing programme creates opportunities for leaders to gain insight into issues being experienced locally and begin a conversation about what can be done.

“Responsible employers can make a positive difference to the challenges that Wales faces, including in the area of unemployment and youth engagement. Employers want a talented, skilled and diverse workforce and young people want a supportive, secure and engaging employer.

“So these shared priorities can be addressed by bringing both parties together. It might take the form of a school partnership, or a mentoring relationship or work experience – but it starts with an understanding of the issues and a recognition of what responsible businesses can do.” 

Stephen was joined on the Seeing is Believing visit by:

  • Matt Appleby - Director, BITC Cymru
  • Andy Churchman - District General Manager, SP Energy Networks
  • Katie Goodwin - Employer & Partnership Leader, Jobcentre Plus Rhyl
  • Mark Greenhaf - Deputy Governor, HM Prison Berwyn
  • Sophie Griffiths - Human Resources Manager, Wockhardt UK
  • Alison Hourihane - Business & Community Development Manager, Wynne Construction
  • Mandy Hughes - Workforce Modernisation Manager, Betsi Cadwaladr UHB
  • Roy Jones MBE - Community Liaison Manager, ScottishPower
  • Emma Lloyd-Walker - STEM Coordinator, Blessed Edward Jones RC High School
  • Mohammed Mehmet - Chief Executive, Denbighshire County Council
  • Liam O'Sullivan - Dee Valley & Mid Wales District General Manager - SP Energy Networks
  • Sian Beck - Superintendent, North Wales Police
  • Steve Thomas - Government Affairs Executive, Airbus UK
  • Alison Thomas - Operational Director, Rhyl City Strategy
  • Lawrence Wood - Principal, Coleg Llandrillo

The event was supported by Clare Rudall (Head of Membership, BITC Cymru), Roger Bassett-Jones (Account Manager, BITC Cymru) and David Hoare (PR Manager, BITC Cymru).

For more information about working with schools in Wales, visit our website here or alternatively if you are interested in finding out more about the work BITC Cymru does across Wales, please contact the team at cymru@bitc.org.uk or by telephone at 029 2078 0050.