Gateway: Employing Birmingham’s lost youth

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Birmingham is suffering more than any other major city in the UK to get its young people into work, with one in 10 claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance.

But within the rail and construction sector there is a ray of light – the Birmingham Gateway Project.

The work at Birmingham New Street station has so far brought 187 people out of unemployment into full-time work, 43 per cent of whom are from some of the city’s most deprived areas.

Matthew Gunnell, 19, is one of those who has gone from sofa surfing his way between odd jobs to earning a steady wage as a construction apprentice.

Matthew was excluded from school at 14, homeless at 16 and was expecting his first child before joining the Mace-led scheme

“It’s definitely a big thing for me because my son was born a month ago,” said Matthew.

“I’ve never had no money to provide for him or myself because I was on Jobseeker’s Allowance at the time, but now I’m positive motivated and looking into my future.”

Mace formally opened the Birmingham Gateway Construction Academy on November 22, with the aim of assembling a local workforce to deliver the project.

Richard Thorpe, head of delivery at Mace, said: “I think that the area we’re in is one of the highest unemployed areas in the country is one attribute. The project itself is also a lead, it does attract people to it because it’s a major project and to be an apprentice on a project like this is quite unique in the industry.

“The fact that quite a high percentage of apprentices that start now will have the opportunity to see the most of their time as an apprentice on one scheme is also quite unique.”

“It’s definitely a big thing for me because my son was born a month ago. I never had no money to provide for him or myself because I was on Jobseeker’s Allowance at the time, but now I’m positive motivated and looking into my future.”

At an event to celebrate the success of the Gateway Academy, Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore lay down a challenge to the city’s business leaders to create more training opportunities within their organisations.

Councillor Bore said: “There is something like 32,000 small and medium-sized enterprises here in Birmingham and just 3,000 of those have taken on one or more apprentices in the last three years.

“We need to give our youngsters across the city every opportunity to become the workforce of the future in Birmingham and to start their careers on such a complex and prestigious project is also something which is significant.”

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