District council puts young people at heart of revamped economy

Richmondshire District Council, which has a rapidly rising elderly population, is putting young people at the heart of a revamped economic strategy, a meeting heard.

The council’s scrutiny committee heard was told that the area boasted high levels of employment, many young people did not believe there were “aspirational jobs” available locally.

By 2035 it is estimated that there will be a marked shift in the shape of the age profile in Richmondshire.

The proportion of the population aged 65-plus is projected to increase from 19 per cent in 2014 to 29 per cent by 2035.

Over the same period, the number of 16 to 24-year-olds in the Yorkshire Dales National Park area of the district is predicted to fall by 51 per cent and rise by 12 per cent in the rest of the district.

The meeting heard while there were a range of other factors that needed addressing to retain young people in the area, such as affordable housing, the council aimed to be more pro-active in identifying skills gaps and providing support for students to get the right qualifications.

Sue White, the authority’s business and community manager, said the authority’s revised economic action plan included “trying to ensure we have the right workforce for the area” as a new priority.

She said supporting and developing activities aimed at increasing apprenticeships across the district would be key to retaining young people, as would raising awareness, not just with young people, but with their parents as well, “that you don’t need to leave the district to get a good job”.

The meeting was told at one school quite a lot of students left the district for work placements due to a lack of knowledge about local employers.

Ms White said: “One of the things we are looking at is developing a bespoke project for the district which aims to make that connection between schools, pupils, parents and employers about the types of job opportunities that are available locally, so that young people don’t feel they have to leave the district to find employment opportunities. We have got a wide diversity of businesses operating in the district.”

She added the council would look to apprentices working in industries such as pharmaceuticals or engineering to act as ambassadors for the district by speaking to young people about what can be achieved. She said: “Young people can actually sell it and can make it sound a lot more funky and interesting.”

Committee chairman Councillor Jamie Cameron said the revised economic action plan’s new priority was “absolutely vital”, as young people would help to ensure the sustainability of local services and facilities such as schools, health care, shops and businesses.