Skill Up Step Up: Help us put young people on to the job ladder

·7-min read

Today The Independent and the Evening Standard launch Skill Up Step Up, a joint Christmas appeal to help unemployed young people into work through sustainable jobs or apprenticeships and transform their lives.

We have received £1m from Barclays and partnered with the Barclays LifeSkills programme to provide grant funding over two years, for up to five charities, that will upskill disadvantaged jobless youths by giving them employability training.

Our first charity grantee is Springboard, a UK-wide group based in east London that makes jobless people “work ready” and has an outstanding track record of finding them positions in the hospitality industry.

Springboard’s chief executive Chris Gamm called our appeal a “game-changer” that would jumpstart young people’s careers and help London’s under-staffed hotels and restaurants return to full capacity. C S Venkatakrishnan, group chief executive at Barclays, said it would be “transformative for young lives” and was proud to back our appeal.

Our appeal is threefold: it is a call to unemployed youth to sign up for free employability training from one of our charity partners; it is for employers, large or small, to step up to the plate and offer these young people made “work ready” a job or an apprenticeship; and it is to our readers to donate what they can so we can support even more disadvantaged youth into jobs.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Click here to make a donation and help us give more young people the training they need to get into work

Last week we reported that youth unemployment in the capital had soared by 55 per cent since the start of the pandemic to 105,000 with 21 per cent of young people seeking work jobless, and how this co-exists with a record 1.17 million job vacancies countrywide, especially in hospitality. Among black London youth, the jobless rate rises to 37 per cent.

Experts blamed a stark mismatch between the skills and experience demanded by bosses and that supplied by young people and said it is costing our economy billions. In the London hospitality sector alone, the cost of the mismatch in lost productivity is estimated at over £2bn.

The campaign is aimed at unemployed youth, employers and potential donors (The Independent/Evening Standard)
The campaign is aimed at unemployed youth, employers and potential donors (The Independent/Evening Standard)

Kate Nicholls, head of UKHospitality, said: “The mismatch is suppressing revenue in London hospitality by 20 per cent at a cost of £2.2bn. We have restaurants closing several days a week because of lack of staff so it’s a race to get young people skilled up so London can reclaim the No 1 spot we held in world hospitality since slipping to third behind New York and Paris as a result of the pandemic. Hospitality is the second largest employment sector in the capital and is crucial to our overall economy.”

Nicholls added: “This appeal is a great opportunity for young people who have borne the brunt of the pandemic. They can go from entry level to a manager earning £50k in two or three years.”

One employer Springboard works with is Compass who supply catering staff across the capital, including to HMS Belfast, the permanently moored museum ship between Tower Bridge and London Bridge. Springboard take new trainees there to inspire them – like the cohort pictured, who visited last month – and where they met former trainees like Natasha, who currently works at the on-board restaurant and cafe.

Natasha*, a university drama graduate and Springboard-trained staff member of Compass told how she pinches herself every time she strides up the gangway and takes in the vista to start her shift aboard HMS Belfast.

 (Office for National Statistics)
(Office for National Statistics)

“I had been unemployed for a year and I felt completely demoralised after applying for over 30 jobs and not scoring a single interview,” the 24-year-old said. “Last October I did a month-long course with Springboard where I learned how to present myself and where we covered a different part of the hospitality industry every day.”

She added: “They got me work experience and within weeks I had gone from a person with no prospects to one that ticked enough boxes to get me a job at Compass. My first job with them was on a Covid-testing site, then as a sous chef at The Oval cricket ground and now as a barista on HMS Belfast. I have been at Compass almost a year. My line manager has discussed how I can rise to operations manager, hopefully within a year. My message to other young people is this: sign up because it will change your life. It completely changed mine.”

Chris Gamm, of Springboard, said: “The Skill Up Step Up campaign is a game-changer for young people and the hospitality industry. One challenge hospitality faces is convincing influencers like parents, teachers and career advisers what a dynamic career hospitality presents with opportunities to gain transferable skills. We look forward to making unemployed young people work ready and getting their career kick-started.”

Mr Venkatakrishnan added: “One thing I’m looking forward to in my new role at Barclays is our work supporting charities and local communities. This is at the heart of our culture. The pandemic has had a huge impact on jobs, particularly in the capital with youth unemployment rates soaring. At the same time, many businesses are struggling to recruit talent. Our LifeSkills employability programme, which has helped 14 million people gain vital core skills since its launch eight years ago, can play a key part in plugging that gap. That’s why I’m proud to announce we are backing the Evening Standard and The Independent with their Skill Up Step Up appeal, which will help transform the lives of many disadvantaged young Londoners.”

Meanwhile, Steve Haines, spokesman for Impetus, a group that helps disadvantaged youths, backed our initiative and called on the government to act. “A significant proportion of unemployed young people aren't work ready and need support before they have the skills and confidence required. This campaign is a huge step in the right direction but we need government to act, too. If the government is serious about levelling up and reducing the number of vacancies, they must address young people’s essential skills in the levelling up white paper due before Christmas.”

*Names changed

Our campaign in a nutshell

What are we doing? We have launched Skill Up Step Up, a £1m initiative in partnership with Barclays LifeSkills to upskill unemployed and disadvantaged young Londoners so they can be “work ready” and step up into sustainable jobs or apprenticeships.

Why are we doing this? Youth unemployment in London has soared by 55 per cent to 105,000 since the start of the pandemic, meaning that 21 per cent of 16-24 year-olds are jobless at a time of record job vacancies amounting to 1.17 million countrywide. This mismatch, caused largely by an employability skills and experience gap, is leading to wasted lives and billions of pounds of lost productivity for our economy.

How will it work? The £1m from Barclays will provide grant funding over two years for up to five outstanding handpicked charities that provide disadvantaged jobless young Londoners with employability skills and wrap-around care to get them into the labour market and transform their lives. The first charity partner, announced today is Springboard.

They will support young people into jobs in the hospitality industry (hotels, restaurants, bars, leisure and tourism) via a 3-6 week programme that includes one-to-one mentoring, soft skills and employability development (confidence, work attitude, CV building, interview practice, time management), practical industry and hard skills training including food safety and customer service, as well as access to work experience placements. More partner charities will be announced in due course.

How can the young and jobless skill up? If you are aged 16-24 and want to upskill towards a job in hospitality, contact Springboard For tools, tips and learning resources visit:

How can employers step up? We want companies – large, medium and small – to step up to the plate with a pledge to employ one or more trainees in a job or apprenticeship. They could work in your IT, customer service, human resources, marketing or sales departments, or any department with entry-level positions. You will be provided with a shortlist of suitable candidates to interview. To get the ball rolling, contact the London Community Foundation, who are managing the process, on:

How can readers help? The more money we raise, the more young people we can skill up. To donate, use click here.

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