Call for action over Newham jobs crisis

Business and union leaders have called for greater action over rising unemployment as the latest figures reveal that Newham has the fourth highest rate of joblessness in the country.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data show the level of unemployment standing at 13.7 per cent in the borough, behind only Nottingham (14.8 per cent), Middlesborough (14.4 per cent) and Sandwell (14.1 per cent).

John James, secretary of Newham Chamber of Commerce, said that not enough was being done by schools and colleges in the area to prepare young people for working life.

Mr James said: “Many local employers tell me that some of the young people that come to them do not have any idea of the commitments they need for the workplace.”

The business spokesman said that many youngsters in Newham did not have the communication skills or the “respect for punctuality” that companies required.

Mr James highlighted Portway Primary in Stratford, which gives its pupils an awareness of the workplace from an early age, as a model that other schools should follow.

On a further positive note, the business leader said Newham’s construction colleges and Westfield Stratford City’s Retail Academy would help provide employers with the skilled workforce they required.

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He added that more concentrated IT training needed to be offered at colleges in the borough to skill up workers for vacancies at the Siemens enterprise zone in the Royal Docks when it opens next year.

Mr James said the conversion of East Ham Town Hall to a centre for small business would help boost employment, adding that more and more young people in Newham were joining the Chamber after starting up their own companies.

Union leader Dave Powell, GMB representative for Greater London, blamed government cuts for Newham’s high unemployment and warned the private sector would not be able to compensate for massive public sector job losses.

“The government should recognise that places like a Newham are a special case,” said Mr Powell.

“We are calling on the government to invest in jobs rather than cut them.”