Unemployment can have a devastating impact on family life, luckily Crawley has historically benefited from relatively low unemployment. For Crawley it is low pay, underemployment and poor career prospects which pose the greater challenge.
It wasn’t always this way, the New Town was built on light industry at Manor Royal and strong skills base amongst residents, but over time the country allowed that to be lost.
Since taking control, Labour councillors have met with local employers, educators and business organisations to discuss how Crawley needs to adapt to challenges ahead and improve local employment opportunities.
There’s no shortage of economic or skills strategies, nor do we lack the range or organisations—or even funding—required to have a major impact. Yet, for all the many different agencies and strategies at work, there are very clear gaps in the system and for things to improve we need a major effort to join up the dots.
This can be as simple as improving links between schools and Further Education colleges or showing companies how allowing employees the time they need to study worker’s skills can benefit their business. In the constant dash for degrees, all too often the UK’s tertiary skills have gone ignored and yet it is Germany’s strong technical skills base which gives them the edge.
We used to have those skills and we can have them again but it means learning to take apprenticeships and further education seriously rather than assuming a degree is the only route to success, something graduates learned throughout the recession.
At the council we already are working hard to increase apprenticeship opportunities organisation and looking at ways we can build a culture of apprenticeships into future contracts. Nationally, a Labour government would develop new vocational qualifications, accredited by businesses to ensure they are taken seriously by employers and providing young people with a clear route into a better paid career.
We know what the issues are with skills and employment and what needs to be done to fix them, what we need now is a government that is serious about getting the job done.
Cllr Peter Lamb
Northgate, Leader of Labour Group