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'Croydon doesn't have enough young, skilled workers'

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OPPORTUNITIES for new jobs in Croydon are growing but concerns remain about many young people lacking the know-how to impress employers.

The worries were raised at an executive club lunch organised by Croydon Chamber of Commerce, held at Croydon Park Hotel on Tuesday.

The panel comprised Toni Letts, the council's cabinet member for economic development, Steve Yewman, development director of Westfield, and Andy Smith, deputy chief executive of Croydon College.

Mr Yewman said that while the jobless total in Croydon had fallen from a high of 12,000 two years ago, he feared that many vacancies were being filled by people from outside the borough.

This, he felt, could be caused by a skills shortage in Croydon.

Mr Yewman said the Westfield/Hammerson Partnership's plans to redevelop the Whitgift Centre would bring 5,000 new jobs and it was the partnership's intention to fill those jobs locally.

He said they were working in schools and with community groups to help prepare young people to take those jobs.

Mr Yewman added that the school visits had raised concerns about links between skills and careers training.

It was a view which was echoed by Mr Smith and Cllr Letts, who believe the emphasis in schools on gaining good exam results meant not as much work is being done on preparing young people for work.

Mr Smith said the college ran a programme designed to demonstrate to students how to prepare for a job.

It teaches them the skills needed to prepare a decent CV and how to present themselves at an interview.

He said: "A lot of students don't understand what employers are looking for. It is about literacy, numeracy and teamwork, but also about attitude."

That meant simple things like being well-dressed and polite when going for an interview, he explained.

Mr Smith said: "We find that some students don't know how to greet an employer properly.

"It is not because they are being difficult; it is because no-one has explained to them what expectations are."

Cllr Letts said she believed employers could do a lot themselves to attract the kind of workers they needed by offering work experience places.

"As a council we are going to be offering 50 young people work experience and I encourage other companies to do so," she explained.

'Croydon doesn't have enough young, skilled workers'


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