A new deal for young people in the West Midlands

Think tank: Centre for Social Justice

Author(s): Sophia Worringer

June 27, 2024

This report from UK think tank the Centre for Social Justice shows that a new deal is needed to unlock young people’s potential and turbo charge the region’s prosperity.

Young people across Birmingham and the West Midlands, need a new deal for education, employment and skills in order to fully unlock their potential and turbo charge the region’s prosperity. Birmingham is the youngest major city in Europe – nearly four in 10 (38 per cent) of the city are under 25. This offers a unique opportunity for propelling the city forward, if young people in the area are equipped, skilled and released into their full potential. But despite this potential, young people across the region are struggling.

We have spoken to charities, school leaders and employers who are all seeking to improve the life chances of young people across the West Midlands and Birmingham, and they told of low aspiration; young people lacking social and communication skills; stagnant social mobility and families marked by intergenerational worklessness.

As just one snap shot, there are over 130,000 children in Birmingham who are living in the bottom quintile of deprivation nationally and the city is ranked the 7th most deprived local authority in England. Children and young people in the West Midlands are coming top of the league tables for all the wrong things. They missed the most amount of school days in the first year of the pandemic due to school closures; were the second to least likely to attend clubs for hobbies, arts and music (12 percentage points less likely than counterparts in London); and are the least likely to have had some kind of work experience. This is despite over half (55.3 per cent) of young people in Birmingham identifying work experience as the single biggest thing that could make a difference to their employment prospects.

Young people struggle to climb the first rung of the employment ladder. In July 2021, almost one in five young people in Birmingham were out of work, much higher than the national average. The difficult job market was most frequently identified by young people in the West Midlands as the primary reason young people struggle to find a job.