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Yorkshire firms need to invest in young people to boost Northern Powerhouse

Yorkshire companies must invest in providing job opportunities and skills development to young people in the region to help create the ‘Northern Powerhouse’, according to Alistair Denton, a Partner at EY.

The firm’s charity, The EY Foundation, recently launched its 2015 Smart Futures programme in Yorkshire, in which 17 year 12 students from around the region are undertaking three weeks’ paid business experience as part of the 10-month employability scheme.

The scheme, which also includes mentoring for the students throughout year 13, is designed to teach new skills, enhance employment prospects and give insight into a range of industries the students would not otherwise have been exposed to, including professional services.

Alistair Denton, EY Partner and sponsor for the Yorkshire Smart Futures programme, believes that giving young people access to a broader range of experiences is vital in helping the region to develop and retain the right skills to grow, and is urging companies to give their time to similar initiatives.

Mr Denton said: “The Northern Powerhouse is a bold vision. To make it a reality, the regions need the right mix of skills across a range of industries to fill the vacancies that will encourage growth and further investment.

“This has to start with young people in Yorkshire right across the social spectrum and while coordinated public sector focus on skills is important, it shouldn’t end there.”

On the three week business experience part of the programme, which is now into its final week, the students are working with representatives from Yorkshire organisations, including EY, on a range of tasks aimed to develop their employment and business skills, and their understanding of various sectors. 98 per cent of last year’s Smart Futures cohort nationally said that they would get into the career of their choice because of Smart Futures.

Mr Denton added: “If the North is to become truly globally competitive, businesses must take the bull by the horns to promote their industries to young people and give their time to help them gain valuable experience.

“We need to give them the skills to make the right decisions about their future careers, encourage different routes into employment, such as school leaver programmes, and, critically, open their eyes to a range of growth industries where they could develop their skills in the future.

“Importantly, we also need to give them the right incentives to gain this experience and ensure these experiences are truly valuable.”

Maryanne Matthews, chief executive of the EY Foundation, said: “The work of the EY Foundation charity aims to make more young people in the region employable by collaborating with local businesses to reduce barriers to work through programmes like Smart Futures.

“Targeted employer engagement at the right moments in a young person’s life can be transformational; leading to major social and economic impact in the region.”

Around one in three of Year 12 applicants secured a place on the 10-month Smart Futures programme nationally, illustrating the appetite for The EY Foundation scheme.

To be eligible, students must either be in receipt of free school meals or be the first in their families to be considering a place at university, and be predicted a minimum of 300 UCAS (universities and college admissions service) points or equivalent.

Mr Denton said: “Smart Futures is helping to boost our industry. Similar efforts to engage a broad range of young people in other key sectors and business in general across Yorkshire could help to boost social mobility and the future talent pool, and improve the North’s competitiveness – helping to build the Northern Powerhouse.”

Alistair Denton
Alistair Denton

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