Young people in West Norfolk will be among the first in the country to take part in a new project, which officials will improve their access to work and learning opportunities.
Norfolk is one of four areas which have been chosen to pilot the new government initiative, which aims to target 16 and 17-year-olds who are not in education, employment or training (NEET).
The project, which is being unveiled today, will initially work with youngsters in West Norfolk from a base at Priory House in Lynn’s Austin Street.
Under the plan, Job Centre staff will work alongside officers from Norfolk County Council’s children’s services department to offer greater advice and support to teenagers on employment and training opportunities.
Up until now, that sort of support has only been available to people who are aged 18 or over.
Although the proportion of young people who are classed as NEET in Norfolk is slightly above the national average, council chiefs say it is falling and hope the new programme will continue the trend.
Mick Castle, the authority’s outgoing cabinet member for education, said: “By working closely with schools, colleges and training providers we have already achieved significant progress in reducing our NEET figures and ensuring that we are achieving above the national average in the proportion of 16-year-olds accessing training and education.
“We want to ensure that progress continues and this scheme will give Norfolk’s young people access to the further expertise of Job Centre staff, who have the best knowledge of local recruitment and employment opportunities and can broker work experience and training for our young people.
“We are hopeful that this work will help to further reduce NEET numbers and ensure that young people have further access to the skills and knowledge that can help them to achieve their potential.”
The initiative, which is voluntary and open to any 16 or 17-year-old who does not current received employment-related benefits, has been set up by the Department for Work and Pensions.
Employment minister Esther McVey said: “Every young person deserves the best chance in life so they can secure their future.
“Youth unemployment is falling and the economy is growing, so we need to make sure every young person gets the help they need to benefit from the improving jobs market.
“Jobcentre work coaches have a huge amount of expertise, experience and local labour market knowledge, which shouldn’t be limited to only those people over 18.
“Together with local authorities and charity groups we are changing that and helping ensure young people re-engage with the system and fulfil their potential.”