Wales On-Line Feb 2011
LABOUR pledged to create 4,000 jobs placements a year to ensure there will be no “lost generation” in Wales as the nation struggles with the impact of the recession and public spending cuts.
The Welsh Jobs Fund promises to offer “a real job” to the hardest-hit young people who are struggling to find work.
The programme will cost up to £25m a year and the jobs will last at least six months, paid at or above the minimum wage for 25 hours a week. Employers will be encouraged to extend pay, hours and the length of contract.
First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “What we want to do is fill the vacuum that’s been left by the Tories axing of the Future Jobs Fund. We can’t afford to lose another generation to unemployment as we saw in the 1980s.”
He continued: “We have to offer the young people of Wales hope in these difficult economic times. They need to know the Government is on their side.”
The launch comes as delegates gather today in Llandudno for the last Labour conference before the March 3 referendum on law-making powers for the Assembly and the May 5 election. Employment is likely to be a top issue, with 20.5% of 16 to 24 year olds across the UK now unemployed.
Mr Jones said: “Our promise to the young unemployed of Wales is that if you are finding it impossible to break into the labour market then we will be at your side, and we will ensure you get the support, advice and the training you need to find work.”
Huw Lewis, the Labour AM for Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney, said he “punched the air” with excitement when he head about the policy. He said: “I thought ‘This is fantastic. It’s just the sort of thing a constituency like mine is crying out for.’”
Mr Lewis, deputy minister for children, was certain jobs would be a central issue at the election. Speaking before the campaign pledge was launched at a training provider in Merthyr Tydfil, he said: “Most of a community like this one is two pay packets away from disaster. We are still waiting for the public sector cuts to bite with their full vigour.
“There are thousands and thousands of families who are six to eight weeks away from real financial ruin.”
The jobs on offer through the scheme are intended to help young people acquire the skills and work habits that employers demand, as well as give them the self-belief needed to find further employment.
It is also hoped the initiative will identify training needs and enable participants to make a “real contribution” to their communities
The Future Jobs Fund was a flagship policy of the last Labour UK Government. It was launched in 2009 and by the end of March this year it will have funded more than 100,000 jobs. Twenty five projects were approved in Wales and around 4,600 jobs created.
However, last May the UK Government announced there would be no further roll-out of temporary jobs, as part of an effort to save £320m by “ending ineffective elements of employment programmes”.
Paul Gray, chief executive at Tydfil Training, where the Welsh Jobs Fund was launched, said: “The Future Jobs Fund was an invaluable lifeline for many people who were struggling to get a start in their working lives, and the initiative proposed today will go a long way to plugging that gap.
“For this community to thrive, and this goes for communities right across Wales, we need to take every opportunity to help people maximise their potential. Improving our in-work training offer and improving basic skills is absolutely fundamental to that.”
Conservative shadow economic development minister Darren Millar doubted the scheme would be affordable and said his party’s policy of scrapping business rates for companies which have a rateable value of less than £12,000 would do more to boost employment.
He said: “What we really need to see in Wales is a growth in the private sector.”