Stoke-on-Trent has the lowest rate of young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) in the West Midlands, new figures have revealed.
In the city, 4.1 per cent (225) of people aged 16-17 are NEET, compared to an average of 6.8 per cent (8,155) across the whole region.
Now teenager Shannon Anthony says seeking employability support from Stoke-on-Trent City Council has been the best thing for her since leaving college – and has urged other young people like her to do the same.
The 18-year-old has been attending the authority’s ‘Nu Futures’ course for the past four weeks while she applies for jobs to train as a prison officer.
Shannon, who lives in Tunstall, is waiting to find out how well she has done in her public services A level, which she studied for at Stoke on Trent College.
She hopes to join the prison service, and has been honing her skills to improve her chances of finding work.
Shannon said: “The Nu Futures course is every Wednesday to Friday, from 9am to 4pm, and it is the best thing I’ve ever done.
“I’ve been learning about things like e-safety, interview skills and how to improve my CV, and I definitely feel much more prepared for the working environment than when I first left college.
“The staff who run the course are so friendly and helpful, and are really easy to talk to. I’d definitely recommend the course to anyone in a similar situation to me.”
Before starting the course, Shannon was classed as NEET – one of the ways the activities of young people are measured across the country by local authorities.
Recent figures released by the Department for Education (DfE) show that in May Stoke-on-Trent had the lowest number of people aged 16-17 who were NEET and not known in the region.
Figures for the previous month of April were 4.6 per cent (251) for Stoke-on-Trent and an average of 6.7 per cent (7,968) in the West Midlands.
The city council’s Nu Futures course is just one way in which the improvement has been achieved.
Nu Futures is a free course held at One Smithfield in the city centre and is designed to support young people aged 15 to 19 into apprenticeships, employment, education/training and volunteering opportunities. Eligibility for the programme is that the young person is NEET or at risk of not finding suitable positive outcomes.
Support on offer is bespoke to best meet the needs of each individual learner and can include accredited qualifications, for example City & Guilds awards in employability, food safety, first aid at work and e-safety.
Non-accredited personal development is also available, including team-building and interview skills as well as help in finding work experience placements.
Councillor Janine Bridges, the city council’s cabinet member for education, said: “A lot of effort is put into making sure that our children and young people have the best start in life, and are supported along the way.
“The recent results from the DfE are proof that our efforts are being rewarded, and our young people are getting the best chances in life to succeed in what they want to achieve.
“As well as the specific courses we offer like Nu Futures, we work very closely with our high schools and the three local colleges, providing expert careers guidance support.
“This means that our young people are better informed, guided and supported than they are elsewhere, and fewer of them are NEET and not known when they leave school.
“Not all young people will stay in their original post-16 provision – they may have a change in personal circumstances or want to change courses, or start an apprenticeship for example. These people are sometimes called ‘early leavers’.
“Colleges and providers are required to report early leavers to the local authority and in Stoke-on-Trent we are very good at supporting them to find another positive option.
“And it is the excellent partnership working in the city and the dedication and expertise of our careers advisers which is making such a difference to the support that we are able to offer all our young people.”
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