A new approach to dealing with unemployment among the young has seen Renfrewshire achieve dramatic results
Youth unemployment in Renfrewshire has witnessed a radical decrease thanks to a council-led initiative. Its Economic Development Service developed a new strategy and approach for employability which concentrated on job creation and economic growth. The “Invest in Renfrewshire” programme was launched in June 2012 and over the next three years Renfrewshire witnessed the largest growth in youth employment in Scotland seeing the number rise from 43.2 per cent to 68.3 per cent. That increase took Renfrewshire, in terms of youth employment, from 27th to 4th in the country. And its plan to ‘create 1,000 jobs in 1,000 days’ was fully realised.
The change in approach to employability among the young was the key driver says Leader of Renfrewshire Council, Mark Macmillan. The council actively engaged and supported local businesses to help them grow and, in return, those businesses offered work experience, coaching and most importantly, employment, for the area’s young people.
Mr Macmillan said: “All councils have employability schemes, but the Invest in Renfrewshire scheme is about actually creating more jobs. We needed to expand the number of job offers that get young people into work. That meant working with businesses, telling them: ‘we will come and help you financially, we will help you with your training, we will work with you on developing your business and will support you to increase your workforce’. We now have 900 businesses partnered with Invest in Renfrewshire, and through them, we created 1,000 jobs.”
Leading the way in the council’s bid to increase youth employability is Renfrewshire’s Economic Development Manager, Ruth Cooper. She said: “We have focused clearly on employment, economic growth and job creation. Our whole department works on the same agenda. In fact, the whole council is behind the employability drive and teams in every service try to create work and training opportunities for local young people – it’s become part of how we think and operate.”
However, Renfrewshire’s long term employment goals are far more ambitious. Ruth Cooper added: “We really want to eliminate structural youth unemployment. We will always get some frictional unemployment when young people lose a job or leave a job and need a bit of time to get into the next one. But I think the next focus for us will be to look at those who are unemployed for six months or more and get them into work. When we achieve that, there will be no structural youth unemployment in Renfrewshire.”
Mark Macmillan added: “Nowhere else, in Scotland, in the UK or in Europe, will have done that. It will be amazing. Not would be, but will be, amazing to eliminate structural unemployment.”
InCube a new dimension for start-up businesses
Renfrewshire’s first business incubator has been breathing new life into Paisley’s historic town centre. Since its launch last summer, InCube has been supporting a diverse range of start-up businesses to develop and grow. The project, launched by Renfrewshire Council’s Economic Development Service, Invest in Renfrewshire, offers new start-ups and early-stage businesses a comprehensive development and support programme.
The initiative, offering a support package worth around £11,000 to each company, is housed in a sensitively renovated space on the High Street. It has been designed to create a nest of small businesses where cooperation can support growth and enterprise. Each business was chosen through a competitive process as enterprises with the potential to grow, create jobs and add new value to the local economy.
Business who join the InCube receive a wide range of support and networking opportunities to help them develop their products and reach high street, online and export customers. They also get broader financial and business skills training from experts and fellow entrepreneurs. An InCube year is rent-free, rates-free and worry- free.
Mark Macmillan, Leader of Renfrewshire Council said: “Renfrewshire’s history and heritage are dominated by creative entrepreneurs and I have every reason to believe that we still have the ideas, acumen and enterprise to build a whole new generation of successful enterprises. InCube will offer excellent support for entrepreneurs and is also a measure of the council’s commitment to Renfrewshire’s economic future.”
The initiative took a further step when it branched out into retail premises. The unit at 9b Gilmour Street was transformed into the stylish InCube Shop which brought a new retail concept to the town. Seven of the businesses now offer their wares at the Gilmour Street retail hub. The shop is soon to add further value by becoming a retail academy training unemployed people for work in the sector.
Ruth Cooper, Economic Development Manager at Renfrewshire Council, added: “InCube has injected a new energy into the town centre. The creativity from the participants is infectious and is re-igniting the ambition of others. We are developing a strong local network of creative entrepreneurs and taking a real step forward in regenerating the centre.”
To find out more about InCube, or Invest in Renfrewshire’s wider business programmes, please visit investinrenfrewshire. com or call 0300 300 1180.
Cultural bid highlights town’s ambition
As part of ambitious plans to transform the future of Renfrewshire, Paisley has launched a bid to become the UK City of Culture 2021. The bid is showcasing the town’s internationally significant collection of heritage and cultural assets, in the hope of securing the title, which will lead to a year-long extravaganza of major national events. In turn, this will greatly enhance the town’s economic, cultural and social landscape far beyond 2021.
UK City of Culture is a designation given to a city in the UK for a one year period. The aim of the initiative, which is administered by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, is to capitalise on the success of Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2008, which had significant social and economic benefits for the area. The inaugural holder of the award was Derry/Londonderry in 2013. In 2017, Kingston upon Hull will take the title. Each of these cities face similar challenges to Paisley and have clear plans to use UK City of Culture status to change things for the better.