THIS IS a very important year as Oldham Council joins forces with partners across the public, private and voluntary sectors to ‘Get Oldham Working’.
The aim of this new campaign is create 2,015 employment opportunities by 2015 and to deliver our flagship ‘Youth Guarantee’ which will see every young person who wants to move on in life given an offer of a job, training, further education or supported into self-employment.
As part of our push to become a ‘Cooperative Borough’ we recognise that this cannot just be an Oldham Council project. It has to be an ambition that is shared by the whole Borough with everyone ‘doing their bit’.
Last Friday night’s ‘One Oldham Business Awards’ was attended by around 500 people and was the ideal opportunity for us to launch Get Oldham Working.
This event is the best of its kind in Greater Manchester and that’s testament to the hard work of the Business Awards Steering Group who give up their time to organise everything so brilliantly, plus all those people who nominate, sponsor and attend.
I explained to the audience at the Queen Elizabeth Hall that our town is regenerating at a rapid pace. At a time when many others are simply managing decline, we are leading growth.
No one project in itself will regenerate our town, of course, but the sheer scale of our ambition should not be underestimated.
However, there are challenges. Chiefly, we have a large number of young people leaving school with little hope of going on to further education or employment.
We must be conscious that the difference between development and regeneration is that you are not simply building a shiny new building: you also need to take care of the social and community side too.
We need to get Oldham working: to take us off the top of the Greater Manchester unemployment list and give a ‘hand up’ to the more than 8,000 local people currently out of work.
That challenge is significant – so the response must be equally substantial.
We can’t wait for someone to sort this out for us. We can’t sit here in hope that the UK economy will pick up and Oldham then simply gets a share. If we do that, we will fail again.
When the last boom came, Oldham flagged. Much money went into the public sector without creating the environment for growth so that – when the tough times did come – we simply weren’t able to withstand the force of the blow.
We’ve embarked here upon what I believe is the most ambitious town centre investment plan in the region. It will create jobs and breed confidence, but we need to do more to Get Oldham Working.
No one organisation, sector or approach can do this, so we need to marshal all the resources available.
It simply won’t do for us to stand by and see another generation cast aside, forgotten or left without hope or ambition. Our young people are our future. This isn’t just a nice thing to do – it’s essential for the long-term future of our borough.
By 2015 to Get Oldham Working we will have in place the Oldham Youth Guarantee. That will mean no young person will leave school at 18 without the guarantee of a job, education, apprenticeship or support towards self-employment.
We want to show young people that Oldham is town which believes in you – a town which once led the world and hasn’t lost that spirit of enterprise.
We want to say to every young person – if you’re willing to roll your sleeves up and get on in life you will have the full support of your town behind you.
Now that’s a big ambition – unique in fact – and the first in the country. But it is possible. We can do it if we pool resources and everybody does their bit.
I asked firms at the One Oldham Business Awards to give us momentum and start by pledging their support to Get Oldham Working.
That can be a range of things. Businesses can, for example, help by taking on an apprenticeship with funding support for just £2,000 a year. They can also create a job, or commit to supporting local suppliers and producers.
I told them that our ambition for Oldham is big, and urged them to think big too.
I have already outlined these plans to one of our town’s biggest supporters – Mr Norman Stoller CBE, a Freeman of our Borough.
On Friday night he shared his vision for young people in Oldham to be the best that they can – and agreed to kick-start our plans with a staggering donation.
Norman has pledged £1 million of his hard-earned money from the Stoller Charitable Trust to support our next generation of entrepreneurs in Oldham over the next four years.
It was an astonishing gesture from an inspirational man.
From the bottom of my heart I wish to thank him again – not just for his donation, but for his belief in our town.
We can do this together – and don’t let anyone say that we can’t!
I would ask all local businesses to please visit our website and add their pledge to the campaign via this link Get Oldham Working – Pledge Card
Thanks for listening,