Tackling youth unemployment

Suffolk County Council brought together 33 local cultural sector employers into a consortium to create 80 Creative Employment Programme-funded apprenticeships and paid internships. They have been able to address youth unemployment and diversify the area’s creative workforce.

"Young people who have been unemployed for six months or longer often need more nurturing to enable them to flourish."

Jayne Knight, Arts Development Manager at Suffolk County Council, led the initiative and wanted to address some key strategic objectives:

“Suffolk has high youth unemployment and poor attainment at GCSE and A-levels.

"We applied to the Creative Employment Programme (CEP) because we wanted to play a role in reducing unemployment and further develop the capacity of our creative businesses and the local skills base.”

Building up a consortium

The council worked very closely with Christina Birt, Creative & Cultural Skills’ Ambassador for the East of England, to engage employers. 

The network included sole traders and microbusinesses, alongside some of the bigger employers such as the New Wolsey Theatre and Aldeburgh Music, enabling smaller businesses to benefit from the consortium’s collaborative approach and shared resources.

Funding the wages

Suffolk County Council invests in the majority of the larger organisations, so it encourages engagement in the scheme through their funding relationship.

We managed to create a domino effect and build up a real momentum around addressing this issue

Tackling skills and youth unemployment is a priority for the council, so they were also able to secure some additional funds to support the administration of the scheme and recruitment process.

Once the CEP grant was secured, the council contracted Christina to explore the best training provision for the apprentices and interns, and Christina was able to negotiate a package with North Hertfordshire College.

The council also brought in Suffolk Artlink, an arts organisation who specialise in working with vulnerable people, to build links with Job Centre Plus.

Tacking youth unemployment

Christina told us: “Our employers were delighted to have the opportunity to ‘do their bit’ to tackle youth unemployment. We could see that our sector could make a real difference to unemployment figures in Suffolk, and we managed to build up a real momentum around addressing this issue.

“We had very positive discussions about the role of young people in organisations, thinking more about what a young person could do for us rather than what we could do for a young person.

“Social media skills were at the top of many of the employers needs and we were confident that young people could bring some great working knowledge and skills.”

Helping unemployed young people

Jayne Knight told us: “The funding meant that we could ask busy employers to take a calculated risk of investing time, and some cash, in building the sector’s workforce.

“While the bigger organisations have been able to allocate funds to support apprenticeships, smaller organisations with limited funds could see that if they recruited someone who had been unemployed for 26 weeks or more they could attract Youth Contract funding, and in that way they could offer a paid internship at a low cost.

My internship is giving me a great learning opportunity and I am on a path to the person I want to become

“Young people who have been unemployed for six months or longer often need more nurturing to enable them to flourish, so employers that want to take advantage of the Youth Contract need to think carefully about the level of support they are able to provide.

“Suffolk Artlink and Christina Birt have ensured that we have been able to maintain a high quality approach to all aspects of the scheme and investing in these specialist skills has been crucial for successful delivery.

“In the long term I am convinced that the project will generate a shift in the employment practises of our local sector and will enable us to build new relationships with Further Education providers and Job Centre Plus”.

Jordan Peck, intern at New Worsley Theatre said: "My internship is giving me a great learning opportunity and as a result I am now on a path that could lead me to the person I want to become."

Key facts

Funding: £197k to create 47 internships and 33 apprenticeships
Art form: Multi-disciplinary
Located in: Suffolk, East of England
Size: All consortium members are small to medium enterprises with less than 100 employees. Some are sole traders.

Tackling youth unemployment

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