Nov 15 2012 by Amy Coombs, Harrow Observer
THE burden of tuition fees can cast a doubt over sixth formers, while the lack of entry level jobs leave graduates with plenty of debts but without promise of employment to pay them off.
With an ever-decreasing number of entry-level jobs and unpaid internships demanding a CV full of work experience, graduates can often be left feeling unmotivated and angry.
It seems it may not all be doom and gloom, however, with the future for Harrow’s young adults appearing to be bright with the help of Harrow Council.
New government figures from the department for education show the borough is scoring A*s when it comes to the percentage of 16 to 17-year-olds in education, employment of training.
In Harrow, 95.6 per cent of the borough’s young people are in education, training or work, compared with 87.3 per cent across London and the national average of 81.4 per cent.
While these figures demonstrate the council’s efforts to help school leavers with their future plans, the council has also been assisting graduates by launching a unique 10-week work placement graduate scheme, called Xcite, which aims to help them obtain the skill set and experience they need to go into the workplace.
Laura Stackpool, 22, of Kenton, is half-way through her placement in the council’s communications department. She said: “I’d been unemployed since I graduated in May and after a while it made me feel demoralised and as if I was going to be unemployed forever.
“People also make a judgement of you when you say you’re unemployed which can be hurtful.
“All the jobs and even unpaid internships are so competitive and you really have to have significant experience in the exact area you want to go into.”
The scheme already has 68 graduates carrying out work placements with the council and of the 32 that have finished the scheme, 24 are already in paid employment.
The graduates can be placed in any one of the council’s departments, from economic development to community services as one graduate, Cynthujaa Satchithananthan, 23, experienced.
Cynthujaa worked with Quality Assurance, Commissioning and Schools (QACS) directorate in the children and family services department.
She said: “I barely knew anything about children and family services and even less so about QACS. However, during my weeks here, I learned a great deal about the directorate and about the council itself.”
Before Cynthujaa began the placement, interviews were scarce and job offers were not forthcoming.
However, once she was able to put her experience of working at the local authority on her applications she received two invitations for interview within the space of a week.
At one interview with Basildon Council, Cynthujaa said that although the other candidates were more knowledgeable about local government, she had the advantage of having direct experience.
“Within six weeks of being on the Xcite Scheme, I was offered a permanent position as a graduate trainee with Basildon Council.
“I owe a great deal to the Xcite scheme and its team. Not only was it a wonderful experience, but it is also the first work experience scheme targeted at graduates.”
Cynthujaa also gained a temporary contract with Harrow Council after her 10-week placement, before her position at Basildon Council began.
Portfolio holder for planning and regeneration, councillor Keith Ferry, said: “I am delighted that the graduates have found the experience so useful. Supporting young people is a top priority for the council.
“Despite our figures for the number of young people in education, employment or training being the very best in the country, it is important that we continue to improve the lives of graduates.
“By making these projects available to young graduates, they get the experience of what it is like to work a council. They are then able to apply for vacancies equipped with some sector knowledge.”
The council has also been creating partnerships with schools and dedicated time to adolescents who may be at risk of becoming disengaged with life after they leave compulsory education.
Furthermore, the council is actively encouraging partner companies and suppliers to take on apprentices from the local community.
So far, 28 companies have agreed to take on 35 apprentices to help them deliver their commitments to Harrow.
Harrow Council portfolio holder for finance, councillor Sachin Shah said the very nature of the work was ‘enriching the local economy by nurturing local skills’.
The council’s corporate director for children and families, Catherine Doran, added: “By innovative working and by addressing the barriers young people face, Harrow Council has ensured the numbers entering employment, education or training are the best in the country.”