Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Jobs - the top priority

Launching the 100 apprentices in 100 days campaign
Charles Dickens was once seen in Yates in the town centre. Of course it was 1861 and it wasn’t Yates then but the Municipal Hall. He was doing a public reading of extracts from his books.

Now we are celebrating 200 years since his birth the question is being asked would he recognise some of the social issues of today. What would he say about bankers’ bonuses or rising unemployment, particularly among young people?

Certainly Hastings people are telling us their number one concern is jobs and the economy. And as a council we are developing a jobs’ action plan to try to make an impact.

We launched Own Grown a project to encourage local employers to take on apprentices. This month we set the target of 100 apprentices in 100 days – getting businesses across the town committing to take on 100 apprentices by 15th May. Of course I am urging that they be recruited at least on the minimum wage for their age and that training is accredited.

Training is free to the employer for under-19s and half covered for under 24s. From April the government is offering to pay small businesses with fewer than 50 staff £1,500 to take on an apprentice aged 16 to 24.

The council’s role is to raise awareness of apprenticeships and offer to be the go-between bringing employers together with the appropriate training provider. You can find out more at

The council is also heading up an employability project, to help local people who are out of work, especially young people, to demonstrate the appropriate social skills and grasp of the requirements of the workplace: to help them become employable. Called Pathways to Employment the project will hopefully be funded from a £150,000 bid for European funding.

Added to this is all the regeneration activity the council is involved in – the aim of which is to increase prosperity and bring jobs and incomes to the town.

In March the Jerwood gallery opens which I believe will be a major boost to our visitor economy and help create jobs in our hotels and restaurants. It will also underline Hastings place as a cultural centre which will attract cultural and creative businesses.

We are looking to rebrand the town with its cultural offer, its university and its quality of life at the heart of it. We need the same marketing brand to attract visitors and to attract businesses relocating to Hastings.

We succeeded in encouraging Saga to locate its insurance arm here and they are still promising up to 800 jobs. So we will continue to work as part of a regeneration company which is trying to repeat the Saga success by creating quality business space which can attract quality businesses to the town.

Nothing the council does is more important than this action plan for jobs.