New apprenticeship scheme tackles youth unemployment across Merton


Over 25% of 16-24 year olds in Merton are out of work.

By Anthony Lewis-Binns

A scheme was launched earlier this week to help tackle the problem of youth unemployment in Merton.

Merton Chamber of Commerce [MCC] is working in partnership with Merton Council and many of the 6000 businesses in the area on its scheme, the Take One programme.

A chief aim of the scheme is to get 100 people into employment.

The last census revealed unemployment among 16-24 year olds in the borough to be lower than many areas of the country, but still at nearly 26% in Morden. The number of people without qualifications in the same area was nearly 28%.

Diana Sterck, Chief Executive of MCC, said: “There are plenty of apprenticeship schemes available. Take One’s aim is to match organisations with apprentices, and manage the programmes. Ray Kinsella [Business Engagement Manager at MCC] brokers with local employers, helping to simplify the process.”

She added that apprenticeship schemes can run into difficulty without proper backing, so the scheme takes an active role in supporting the apprentices and business to ensure drop-out rates are kept to a minimum.

“We have to simplify the process,” she said.

“Apprenticeships can be daunting and time-consuming. We say to employers that we know how difficult the trading time is nationally, but young people are the future, so offer apprenticeships, volunteer schemes, internships, even mentors.”

Emma Elliot, 19, from Stoneleigh, got a place on the scheme after searching for up to 50 jobs a day. She was getting desperate when she was contacted by Capital Training, a City and Guilds group who informed her she was right for the apprenticeship at Home Instead Senior Care.

“The apprenticeship has helped me so much,” she said.
“It was the best decision I ever made. I didn’t want to go to university as i didn’t think it would be right for my career.
“It’s really helped me get my foot in the door and understand how an office environment works.”
Ms Elliot is sure she will be offered a permanent place once the apprenticeship is over, and can see herself having a good career at the organisation.


Ms Sterck is pleased with the council and its response to the scheme.

“Merton Council is fundamental to working with us on this – it’s a partnership, and they are 100% committed. They want to get as many people as possible in work, too,” she said.

Leader of the council, Stephen Alambritis, said: “It’s a brilliant scheme, and we are always looking for ways of working with the community in this way.”

Cllr Alambritis also revealed that the retail company Next is working in partnership with the council to provide jobs and apprenticeships to pupils from Raynes Park High School, which is opposite the Next site.

He expressed his delight at how the managers of the store are all recruited from within the store, having worked in the shop, rather than headhunting from outside the area.

He has asked managers to offer positions to pupils at the school, in a bid to further cohere the work-life balance of the area.

“We don’t want Merton to be a dormitory where people come to live, but work outside the area. We want people working and living here. Schemes like this help do just that,” he said.

“There may not be growth in the country, but we want growth in Merton.”

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