Unemployment rates in Slough at 'all time high' with 8,000 people claiming benefits, meeting told

Unemployment rates in Slough are at an ‘all time high’ with almost 8,000 people in Slough claiming benefits, councillors heard on Wednesday.

The Education and Children’s Services Scrutiny Panel heard how Slough Borough Council intends on mitigating the impact of coronavirus on apprenticeships and unemployment this week.

A report detailing the council’s response to a recent decline in apprenticeships was presented by service lead for economic development, Shabnam Ali.

Ms Ali said the down-turn was a knock-on effect from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic which has left employers ‘very cautious’.

“They’re starting to make their staff redundant, so there’s a bit of caution around employers actually taking on new staff and apprenticeships,” she said.

In Ms Ali’s report it says ‘unemployment rates have increased significantly’ and now ‘at an all-time high’ with the greatest rise in young people aged 16-24.

It states in Slough there were 7,940 claimants of Universal Credit and the Job Seekers Allowance in August, compared to 2,820 in March – the figures ‘going up month on month since COVID hit’.

Ms Ali went on to describe how the council intends on responding to the ‘employment challenges’ the town is facing.

She said the Slough Inclusive Growth Strategy (IGS) 2020-2025 adopted by cabinet in June provides a framework to define the projects that will support employment and economic growth going forward.

She said:“It outlines which sectors are growing, which jobs are coming forward and how we can support people, from the grass roots level at very early stages, and move them along.”

Projects already in the pipeline include the ‘Future Skills Hub’ which ‘will bring together a whole range of partners to align their offer around education and learning’.

These partners include Jobcentre Plus, Windsor Forest Group - in particular Langley College and Royal Holloway University.

It will provide courses and support ‘for people that have higher aspirations to go into higher education’ and include the delivery of ‘degree apprenticeships’.

The Hub will become a physical space in spring next year on the fifth floor of the Observatory House.

Also at the hub, a ‘construction skills academy’ is being trialled, bringing ‘a ‘whole range of training opportunities within the construction sector’.

“We’re looking at construction skills as a sector because we can see that there’s a growing number of job opportunities coming forward from some of the developers that are regenerating the town,” said Ms Ali.

Other projects include The ‘Berkshire Opportunity Portal’ – a website that will advertise all Berkshire jobs in one place and ‘The Slough Innovation Space’.

This will offer ‘very specialist advice and business support’ for start-up business in the digital and technology sector.

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