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Skill Up Step Up: Sadiq Khan backs our Christmas appeal as first firms pledge jobs for young people

London mayor calls on employers to help ‘help young Londoners and our city back on its feet’

David Cohen
Campaigns Editor
Tuesday 21 December 2021 15:17 GMT
Skill Up Step Up: Christmas campaign launched to support London's jobless youth

Six small- and medium-sized firms have become the first to pledge jobs or apprenticeships to young people who have been made “work ready” by our Skill Up Step Up appeal – and Sadiq Khan has backed our campaign, calling on employers to step up to the plate and “help young Londoners and our city back on its feet”.

The mayor of London said: “We all have a responsibility to nurture the next generation and I congratulate The Independent on their Skill Up Step Up campaign to support young Londoners to get the jobs and skills they need.”

He added: “I’m putting young people at the heart of our recovery efforts. We have just announced £11.5m of investment in four new careers hubs and have launched a new academies programme to help young Londoners into the jobs that will help our city get back on its feet.”

With SME’s comprising a critical part of the UK’s economy and accounting for over 80 per cent of apprenticeship starts in London, City Gateway, one of the charities we are funding as part of our £1m campaign in partnership with Barclays LifeSkills, said six employers have agreed to get the ball rolling and come in with pledges to hire. The companies are Pertemps Medical Professionals, UD Music, This is Timeless, Hidden Odds, Riot Communications and The Windrush Generation Legacy Association.

They were responding to our appeal launched in the wake of our investigation into youth unemployment in London which showed that 21 per cent of 16-24 year-olds are jobless at a time of record job vacancies of 1.2 million countrywide, a skills mismatch that our campaign is seeking to address.

Daren Reisman, managing director of recruitment specialist Pertemps Medical Professionals, said: “We believe in young talent and want to support individuals at the start of their careers. That is why Skill Up Step up is such a great campaign. It is about upskilling young people from different backgrounds in disadvantaged areas and helping fulfil their potential. We therefore pledge to take on an apprentice in 2022.”

Hazel Durrant, head of operations at UD Music, which focuses on Black music culture, said: “It’s important to support local communities and underrepresented young people with skills development and routes into meaningful jobs. We are therefore planning to recruit an apprentice in 2022.”

Ion Visinovschi, founder of Hidden Odds, a London-based financial publisher, said: "City Gateway is a great asset for learners and employers, giving young people the chance to start their journey toward full potential irrespective of where they come from. Most of these youngsters are brilliant but just didn’t have the opportunity to show it."

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Our campaign in a nutshell

What are we doing? We have launched Skill Up Step Up, a £1m initiative in partnership with Barclays LifeSkills to upskill unemployed and disadvantaged young Londoners so they can be “work ready” and step up into sustainable jobs or apprenticeships.

Why are we doing this? Youth unemployment in London has soared by 55 per cent to 105,000 since the start of the pandemic, meaning that 21 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds are jobless at a time of record job vacancies of 1.17 million countrywide. This mismatch, caused largely by an employability skills and experience gap, is leading to wasted lives and billions of pounds of lost productivity for our economy.

How will it work? The £1m from Barclays will provide grant funding over two years for up to five outstanding, handpicked charities that provide disadvantaged jobless young Londoners with employability skills and wrap-around care to get them into the labour market and transform their lives. The charity partners we have announced so far are:

1. Springboard: they will support young people into jobs in the hospitality industry (hotels, restaurants, bars, leisure and tourism) via a three- to six-week programme that includes one-to-one mentoring, soft skills and employability development (confidence, work attitude, CV building, interview practice and time management), practical industry and hard skills training, including food safety and customer service, as well as access to work experience placements.

2. City Gateway: they will get young people work ready with a 12-week employability programme, including digital skills, a work placement, CV and interview skills and a dedicated one-to-one coach, extending to up to 20 weeks if they need English and/or maths qualifications, enabling them to gain entry level positions including apprenticeships in a wide range of sectors, including finance, digital media, marketing, retail, property and IT.

More partner charities will be announced in due course.

How can the young and jobless skill up? If you are aged 16-24 and want to upskill towards a job in hospitality, contact Springboard here.

If you want to upskill towards a job in any other sector, contact City Gateway here.

For tools, tips and learning resources visit

How can employers step up? We want companies – large, medium and small – to step up to the plate with a pledge to employ one or more trainees in a job or apprenticeship. They could work in your IT, customer service, human resources, marketing or sales departments, or any department with entry level positions. You will be provided with a shortlist of suitable candidates to interview. To get the ball rolling, contact the London Community Foundation, who are managing the process on:

How can readers help? The more money we raise, the more young people we can skill up. To donate, click here

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