THE FUTURE for young people in Eastbourne is not as depressing as recent unemployment statistics suggest, according to the head of a prominent local college.
Recently the Herald revealed a 173 per cent hike in the number of 18 to 24 year olds out of work for more than six months.
Recently-released figures put the current total at 150, up from just 55 in January, and the town’s Euro MP, Peter Skinner, said the “depressing” findings showed the impact of widespread Coalition cuts was being felt by young jobhunters in Eastbourne.
However, the chief executive of Sussex Downs College, Melanie Hunt, said her experience showed the headline figures were hiding the hard work and success achieved locally.
She said, “I am concerned by the report about youth unemployment, as this may not reflect what is being achieved on the ground.
“Sussex Downs College is at the forefront of several exciting projects to help young people get into employment. I am confident we will see a real and lasting difference which will underline the hard work and investment being made now.”
As well as careers advice, the college helps students write CVs and train for interviews. It also took part in the town-wide Big Week of Work, and has worked closely with Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd to drive up the number of apprenticeships on offer.
And its head believes the approach is working – despite the rise in long-term jobless. The 100 apprenticeships in 100 days exceeded all expectations and netted around 180 placements and a new site here in Eastbourne is already being well used.
“The opening of 5 Langney Road gives Eastbourne a one-stop-shop for jobseekers in the town and the surrounding area,” said Ms Hunt. “It is another significant step forward, providing the unemployed with advice, guidance and skills assessment to help in the jobs market.
“We have already helped over 300 individuals; helping them identify training needs, find work experience, re-train and get real jobs.”
It is a sentiment shared by Stephen Lloyd who said, “Any apparent increase in unemployment for anyone, young or old is always disappointing, but figures released by the House of Commons Library show that overall the trend is, broadly seasonal. For five out of the last seven years the unemployment figure, as with this year, has been higher in October than in January.”
Those new figures support Mr Lloyd’s claims that the hike could be an annual occurrence. They also highlight the fact the town’s long-term unemployed is an upward spiral.
In October 2005 only 80 18 to 24 year olds were jobless for more than six months. That fell to 55 in 2008 but was back at 114 the following year. Last October the total was 85 – meaning there are 65 more long-term jobless young people than a year ago.
Mr Lloyd admitted work still needed to be done but remained upbeat. He said, “The whole of Eastbourne knows the fantastic efforts by our town to grow, despite the national economic difficulties, has being paying dividends.
“I will not dispute it is hard at the minute, as it is across the whole of the UK, but we are bucking the trend and that is something we should celebrate and be proud of.”