Employment market in good health but school leavers can’t get foothold

    Tracey Burns Kent Training and Apprenticeship Coordinator

    Young people are not seeing the benefits of a buoyant economy, local employers have warned.

    That was the message from last week’s jobs fair, which saw more than 40 businesses promote their career opportunities to the public at the Assembly Hall.

    Despite overall optimism there are concerns that school leavers are not being given the necessary opportunities by employers.

    Kent Training and Apprenticeship Coordinator, Tracey Burns, argues that while there are plenty of part-time and casual jobs available, the kind with which young people can ‘build a career’ are in short supply.

    “Employers are only looking for people already with experience, so it’s really hard for young ­people to get into a role,” she said.

    “I’d like to see employers less reluctant to take on young people. They’ve got the ability and the enthusiasm, but they just need someone to give them a chance.”

    Concerns over youth employment were echoed by Cristina Fernandez, regional recruiter for Babcocks, an engineering support service. She claimed that many school leavers were not being equipped with the necessary skills to flourish in the jobs market.

    “I’m seeing a lot of people leaving education with a lack of competence in basic English and maths – it’s obviously something that is going wrong on an educational level,” said Ms Fernandez.

    However, the overall picture remains positive, with local recruiter Gemma Skillet, of Blue Pelican, telling the Times they had seen the number of jobs actually go up since Brexit.

    “There was a two to three-week lull when the result was first announced but now we are seeing an overall increase in the number of vacancies,” she said.

    The latest employment figures, released this week, reflect that Tunbridge Wells maintains its reputation as a place with historically low unemployment.

    Despite a minimal increase of 50 to 575 in the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit during August, unemployment remains low at 0.49 per cent compared to a national average of 4.9 per cent.

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