Bolton is ranked in the bottom third of local education authorities in England according to the Youth Opportunity Index. JOSEPH TIMAN reports on the borough’s outcomes and the prospects for its youth.

OUT of 150 local education authorities in England, Bolton was ranked 103rd in a new report published by the Learning and Work Institute.

The Youth Opportunity Index is based on a mixture of education and employment measures. These include GCSE and A-level equivalent attainment, apprenticeship starts, access to higher education and employment.

The report reveals that Bolton has the highest net underemployment in the North West and one of the highest in the country.

This is the difference between 23 to 33-year-olds who want to work more hours at their current wage and those wanting to work fewer hours for a reduced salary.

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Denise Lonsdale who runs the Bolton Unemployed Advice Centre on Deansgate said she was not surprised by the results.

But Bolton Council and Bolton College were quick to defend their record.

Mrs Lonsdale said: “Bolton Council are just not doing anything. There are more young ones on the streets now. The council needs to get their finger out because there’s nothing for them.

“Why are they failing in school? It’s 2018. They need to teach them in school how to get a job. They are going for interviews and can’t get anything because they’ve had no experience.”

Earlier this year, the Mayor of Greater Manchester spoke at length to Bolton College’s learners about his own visions for Bolton’s future.

He said that young people are a priority for investment and detailed his plans for a free bus pass for all 16 to 18-years-olds within the Greater Manchester region. He also recognised the importance of investment into adult learning and apprenticeships.

Since then, Mrs Lonsdale has written to Andy Burnham about her concerns and said that the national government should also do more to create opportunities for young people.

She added: “What are the government doing about it? Crime rates will go up. Some people say to me you’re better off in jail because you get fed.

“Bring back the youth clubs and opportunities to teach kids. I’m 65 now. When I was 15, we had jobs. But now we are not creating jobs, we are getting rid of them. They need to help the businesses to take young people on.”

The borough was ranked in the top third in terms of access to higher education and the top half for apprenticeships and A-level equivalent attainment, but it came 124th for GCSE-level qualifications.

The proportion of 16 and 17-year olds not in education, employment or training was alarmingly high in the North West, but Bolton came out in the top half nationally.

The North West has the largest variation in rankings of all the regions, from Trafford in third place to Knowsley which ranks 148th.

Bolton was ranked the fifth best borough in Greater Manchester overall, with neighbouring boroughs Bury and Wigan reaching the top 50, while Salford was in the bottom seven.

A council spokesman said: “Bolton has not been immune to the economic challenges of recent years including region-wide unemployment, productivity and underemployment and we are working hard with our partners in the town to address these economic and labour market issues.

“We are creating the conditions for economic growth that leads to job creation – thousands have already been created at Logistics North with employers including Aldi and Amazon and once complete the site is expected to deliver more than 5,000 jobs.”

Last year, Bolton College’s work with the council resulted in around 600 applications for jobs across the borough with multiple providers such as the college.

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Bolton College engaged with companies such as Aldi, Keoghs, Bolton Hospital Trust, Whistle and Amazon. The college supported 88 Bolton adults in gaining sustained jobs, 41 of which were with Amazon where they were able to join the company as ‘fulfilment associates’ who essentially select the products for customer orders.

The further education college in Deane Road offers vocational trainings and apprenticeships in a variety of fields with a focus on work experience.

A council spokesman added: “What we have seen is that the number of people in employment in Bolton has actually increased in recent years and skill levels have also risen sharply.

“The proportion of our residents educated to degree level plus has also increased from one quarter in 2004 to more than one third in 2017. This is important as we know that low skill levels can be a key contributor to underemployment and to compete in a global economy requires a greater portion of high skilled workers.

“We work closely with local employers across sectors and sizes to ensure that there are a variety of employment opportunities to meet the needs of local people focussing on good quality jobs including rates of pay, terms and conditions and progression opportunities.