Investing In Our Future

If the Tees Valley thrives but that isn’t felt by our young people, then we are neglecting our future. Young people offer our area so much promise and yet get far too little support. They face substantial barriers to enter the jobs market, including a degrading minimum wage, and outrageously high costs associated with higher education. I have a background in youth work and still spend lots of time around young people, especially as I love to encourage them to engage in politics.

This page offers an outline Youth Manifesto based on what young people have told me about the realities of their lives. I’d love to get young people’s feedback on it. What do you think about my top 4 ideas?

Empowered and Involved

Young People’s Empowerment

Any meaningful empowerment has accountability and participation written into it. I’d be delighted to convene a quarterly youth assembly inviting young people from across the Tees Valley to have their voices heard. Alongside this we could hold smaller peer-led working groups to develop new policy ideas.

Tackling Unemployment and Underemployment

Unemployment in the area has hit young people hard. The average for Tees Valley in the 20-24 age category is 6.4% – almost double the national average. Young people in areas such as Hartlepool face unemployment levels almost four times as high as the national average. Tackling unemployment amongst younger people is therefore something we have to take very seriously. Market forces will not ensure a better deal for young people, so intervention is required. They need better contractual arrangements along with more and better-quality apprenticeships leading to secure well-paid jobs.

Education, Apprenticeships and Skills

As Mayor I’ll be able to bring together colleges and employers to develop a new 14+ Skills Strategy, including a graduate apprenticeship scheme. The Apprenticeship Levy also needs to be placed under the direction of the mayor to allow for it to be developed into a Skills Levy. This could turbocharge skills devolution in Tees Valley and allow us to invest in high-quality vocational education. I also know that the availability, access and quality of apprenticeships still needs real improvement. I’m impressed by the work of Andy Burnham, Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester, to create a “UCAS for apprenticeships” – a one-stop hub for access to apprenticeship opportunities.

Trained In Teeside

I believe that “Trained in Teesside” should be a sign of a top-class technical education. Many people were at school in the years before the dot com boom and need help to catch up with the skills required in modern workplaces. The adult education budget should be enabling in-work training to those needing to upskill in line with new technology. By increasing technical training provision we can close the skills shortages we have in industries such as telecoms and engineering.

Young Adults’ Housing

High deposits and a rigged rental market mean it’s become almost impossible for the next generation to find a secure home. Let’s challenge our region’s council housing teams and registered social housing providers to establish a new Tees Valley-wide rent-to-own scheme, with the goal of helping young Teessiders under the age of 30 to have a home of their own.

Cheaper Travel

Transport is central to facilitating youth employment. Without access to transport many young people are left stranded which simply is not good enough. We need our public transport network to support young people in finding and maintaining employment. Therefore, I propose a reduced bus fare for under-21s, subsidised in part by the mayor and in part by the bus companies.