The number of young people claiming out-of-work benefits has more than tripled in York in the past year, as the city outlines plans to prevent a generation of residents losing out on career opportunities as a result of the pandemic.
In March 2020 there were 338 people aged 16 to 24 claiming unemployment benefits. By August that number rose to 1,088.
The number of people starting an apprenticeship has also dropped by almost a third.
Councillor Rosie Baker told a meeting that there are “real worries about a lost generation of young people”.
“Since March there’s been a concerning tripling of youth unemployment,” said Steve Flatley from City of York Council.
“I think there are further challenges to those young people who would wish to go into the labour market aged 18 because of the situation with the local economy and how it’s been impacted by the pandemic.”
The latest figures show the number of young people starting apprenticeships has also fallen.
Available apprenticeships in hospitality, retail and tourism jobs used to make up a third of traineeships in the city, but have now dropped to “nearly zero” and there are worries this could have an impact on staffing levels when lockdown lifts.
Alison Edeson, skills manager at the council, said: “We will do our utmost to support and promote apprenticeships but actually the market is dictating what’s happening.”
But she added that large employers in other sectors, including Nestle and Aviva, are still actively recruiting apprentices.
Wendy Mangan from the Department for Work and Pensions said the government has made it a priority to get young people back into work and the Kickstart scheme – providing paid six-month job placements for unemployed 16 to 24 year olds – has created jobs in LNER, Portakabin, Aviva and others.
“We’ve got a lot of graduates at the moment at the job centre,” she said. “We haven’t had any graduates for years.
“We’ve got a big cohort of graduates at the moment who lack work experience, so a lot of them are going into the schools as teaching assistants, mentoring after after school clubs, art technicians, PE teaching assistants, gardeners, admin – you know there’s a lot of different areas.”
The increase in people claiming unemployment benefits can be seen across all ages and across the country.
Council economy boss Simon Brereton said a report by Centre for Cities think tank shows York has seen the smallest increase in unemployment.
But he added: “The fact that every other city is doing worse is there, but it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference to those individuals who’ve lost their job, who we all very much feel for and we’re working very hard with, to make sure that they can find alternative employment.”