Leading the way in reducing youth unemployment
Driven by Forward Swindon, Plan 500 gives Swindon's employers an easy route to new skills while enhancing employment opportunities for young people aged 16 to 24. In its first year, Plan 500 was a huge success, exceeding its targets and becoming a model programme for reducing unemployment. A major factor behind the project's success is the private-sector employers on its board demanding challenging targets and outcomes.
"Plan 500 ticks all the boxes to help young people get on the career ladder." Chris Grayling, Employment Minister.
Making everything go to plan
- Plan 500 met and exceeded its targets: 150 work experience opportunities; 150 apprenticeships; 100 business mentor opportunities, 50 work-based qualifications; and 50 diploma opportunities.
- The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) selected Plan 500 as one of five national pilots looking at issues of co-design and worklessness.
- Forward Swindon engaged employers in many ways, including printed flyers; case studies in the local press; local radio interviews; and presentations at employer network meetings. Three events were held at 'Launch to Business' (Nationwide), The Business Show (STEAM Museum) and Business Breakfast (STEAM Museum).
- Plan 500 is continuing its success into a second year with new and challenging objectives.
Examining Plan 500 in detail
Three areas of Plan 500 delivered major successes: work experience, apprenticeships and business mentoring.
- 119 opportunities with 44 participating organisations.
- 45 additional work experience opportunities for young people at school or college.
- 3 young university graduates gained work experience that led to jobs.
- Close working links established with Job Centre Plus, which cross refers and promotes Plan 500 to employers.
- 50% increase of 16 to 18 year olds starting an apprenticeship in the period 2010 to 2011.
- More than half of the employers expressing an interest in the apprenticeship programme requested further information, with most offering an apprenticeship.
- The late introduction of the European Social Fund (ESF) to Plan 500 resulted in 10 employers applying for the grant and 12 young people accessing apprenticeships.
- Sharing information between the main operational organisations has enabled 4 additional apprenticeships.
- Jobcentre Plus reports that 64% of the young people supported by business mentors did not sign back onto benefits – and remained in employment or entered higher education instead. Additionally, 20% more young people remained in work or education with the support of a business mentor, against a national trend of rising youth unemployment.
- Feedback from the business mentor survey includes very positive comments regarding the added-value that business mentoring brings.
- Business mentoring is a useful way to gain employers' views regarding routes to employment for young people.