Job prospects defy national woes
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While employment levels fell around the country last month, job-specific training helped Weston to buck the trend and get more people into work during February.
According to new figures from the Office for National Statistics, 20 fewer people claimed JobSeekers’ Allowance (JSA) last month than in January, with the area’s prospects described by local experts as ‘quite positive’.
That is despite a national trend which saw in excess of 15,000 more people out of work during the month across Great Britain thanduring January, as unemployment rose for the second month in a row.
The local unemployment level, which sits at 940 people, is not yet back to the November 2015 rate when it fell to just 855, but still represents a fall of more than 200 in the past year, and of almost 1,500 in three years.
All JSA claims are processed through JobCentre Plus outlets, and manager Mike Nicholls told the Mercury tailored training had been offered by the Weston branch to dozens of unemployed claimants to help them get back on the job ladder.
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Mr Nicholls said: “You often get losses of temporary jobs after the Christmas period, but the overall picture in Weston is quite positive, with higher employment rates year-on-year.
“Weston JobCentre did a sector-based work academy last month, based around the care industry, which 33 people attended and 16 have started working in the sector already.
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“If certain sectors are struggling to recruit, the centre puts on basic training for people and the college and Alliance Care helped with the most recent one.
“It’s been very successful, and it’s one of those sectors where there’s often a shortage of personnel. But if we work together, we can get people into jobs.”
Next month, the so-called national living wage will be introduced across the country, giving people aged 25 and over who are in work a minimum income of £7.20 per hour.
The move has been slammed by some businesses nationally over the cost of the increase.
But Mr Nicholls said it could help some sectors attract more workers – with industries such as the care sector in North Somerset attracting an average wage of around £12,500 in 2015, more than £1,500 under the new living wage.
He said: “A lot of employers are signed on already to pay the rate and others have expressed some concerns about how they will be able to recruit people.
“We have got a buoyant labour market and it might encourage people to go into what were relatively low-paid jobs before.”
Mr Nicholls added a summer of big sporting events would prove beneficial for Weston, with the tourism and hospitality industries set to prosper.
He said: “There’s a few things on this year which can affect the economy in a good way.
“We have got the Olympics and the football European Championships coming up, and that will be great for hospitality areas, and Weston should see a very positive return as a result.”