Since the General Election in May 2010, unemployment in Rochester and Strood has fallen from a rate of 4.5% claiming Jobseekers Allowance to 3.9% currently. While this compares favourably with the national average of 4.4%, it is obvious that there is still more to do to get people, particularly our young people and the long-term unemployed, into work or training. More employers in the private sector are starting to create full-time, permanent jobs, moving away from the part-time, low-paid jobs which we’d seen previously, and, nationally, employment has risen by 80,000 in the past three months alone.
So I welcomed the opportunity last Friday to attend two events in Medway which highlighted the fantastic work which is being done in both the public and private sector to increase the employment and training opportunities which are available.
First up was the Barclays LifeSkills breakfast meeting where I met the extraordinarily impressive Jade Dellbridge who joined Barclays as an apprentice, and has progressed to becoming a cashier at their Chatham branch. Jade was a most persuasive ambassador for the Barclays apprenticeship scheme.
Launched in 2012, Barclays has already employed over 1,000 apprentices, with the hope of another 1,000 to come, and is aspiring to get another 10,000 additional apprenticeships created in the wider business community through their LifeSkills Bridges into Work programme.
I am really encouraged that a large national employer like Barclays, one of the banks which declined to be bailed out at the taxpayers’ expense, is creating opportunities for our young people locally through its apprenticeship scheme, and I hope that other companies, particularly those which have benefited from public money, will follow their lead.
I then popped over to the Pentagon Shopping Centre in Chatham to open the Medway Jobs and Apprenticeship Fair 2013, along with my colleague in Chatham and Aylesford, Tracey Crouch.
Organised by Medway Council and Jobcentre Plus, the Jobs Fair attracted businesses from across Kent who were looking to recruit staff, and I was pleased to see so much interest from the public.
With a number of important indicators pointing towards a faster than hoped for recovery thanks to the actions which Conservatives have taken in government, it is important that we ensure that everyone benefits from the increased opportunities presented as our country turns the corner.
In his speech at the Conservative Party conference earlier this week, David Cameron stated:
Aspiration, opportunity: these are our words, our dreams. So today I want to talk about our one, abiding mission. I believe it is the great Conservative mission. That as our economy starts to recover, we build a land of opportunity in our country today.
As the recovery takes hold, we must ensure that we build a land of opportunity for the many, not just the few, and it is vitally important that nobody gets left behind or condemned to a life on welfare and handouts.
My congratulations to everyone involved in organising the jobs fair, and to all of those working to provide the jobs, training and opportunities which benefit our whole country.