Sussex Cricket boss to head new jobs drive

A drive to tackle youth unemployment and boost productivity in Brighton & Hove will be led by the chief executive of Sussex Cricket, Zac Toumazi.

Mr Toumazi will chair a new Employer Skills Task Force set up jointly by the city council and the local business community. Its remit will include helping to create thousands of high-quality apprenticeships across the public and private sectors.

It will also seek to help people who are marginalised from the city’s jobs market, who have claimed welfare benefits for a long time, by joining up the efforts of several agencies.

The city is thought to punch well below its weight in supplying apprenticeships where recorded ‘starts’ recently hit a five-year-low. In 2013/14 the city created just under 1,700 opportunities. Similar-sized cities Sunderland and Coventry created 3,500 and 2,940 respectively.

There are 55 young people in the city who have been claiming Jobseekers' Allowance for over a year. The council has pledged to eradicate long-term youth unemployment over the next four years.

Brighton & Hove also has a substantial number of people who are marginalised from the labour market and considered hard to place in jobs. There are three times more people on incapacity benefit than claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance – 13,000 compared to 4,500.

The Task Force, a key plank of the City Employment & Skills Plan, will be made up of key local business leaders and employers appointed by the chair and council leader Warren Morgan.

New approaches will include seeking to increase the number of apprenticeships in small businesses and exploring ways of improving the engagement between local employers and the city's 70 schools and academies. 

A new Apprentice Training Company (ATC) will be explored to assist small and micro-firms with taking on apprentices, including handling the admin involved. Learning from other successful cities, the ATC could also work to sign up and support employers and advertise available apprenticeships.

None of the recommendations are expected to cost local taxpayers any extra funds.

The independent Task Force will meet five or six times over the coming months and report in the new year to the leader of the council and the city’s three MPs.

Mr Toumazi said: “I’m excited that local employers will be in the driving seat as without employers you can’t have quality apprenticeships. I want the Task Force to be forward-thinking, unrestricted and creative in coming up with ideas for increasing skills and job opportunities for young people and creating a lasting legacy for Brighton and Hove.

“I’ll soon be inviting companies to join us in a campaign to give our young people and marginalised residents more decent jobs and better lives - giving every local resident a proper stake in their city’s future.”

Council leader Warren Morgan said: “I’m delighted that Zac Toumazi has agreed to take on this important role.

“The only way we will tackle youth unemployment and prepare our city for the jobs and technologies of the future is if we join up our civic leadership and local business leadership in a shared challenge.

“Brighton and Hove has a great heritage of innovating and providing rewarding jobs and careers. We are one of the country’s top tourist destinations as well as benefiting from some of the most creative minds in Europe, running cutting-edge businesses.

“But we also face a major challenge: our schools and colleges need to engage more with local employers. Young people need to be given hard skills that will prepare them for the technical, entrepreneurial and environmental roles of the future.

“The council itself also needs to lead by example, building still further on the 46 apprentices that we already employ.”