Young people in West Suffolk are to benefit from a £4 million Government deal designed to create thousands of apprenticeships and jobs.
Despite its namesake, the effects of the Greater Ipswich City Deal will be felt across the county with 5,000 new apprenticeships by 2019, 3,000 graduate level or higher than the national average paid jobs and 400 new businesses in both Suffolk and Norfolk.
The initiative will also increase local private and public investment in skills by at least £10 million as well as develop a pilot youth job centre for the Greater Ipswich area, which includes Mid Suffolk and Babergh.
It follows work by council and business leaders and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.
Cllr Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council, said improving workforce skills was a ‘central part’ of the deal after the issue was flagged up by businesses.
He said: “The effects of this City Deal won’t just be felt in Ipswich. The entire county stands to benefit because of the investment and improvements that will be made.”
David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket, said youth unemployment ‘is just as big a scurge in rural areas as in cities like Ipswich’.
He said: “Long term youth unemployment is lower in Suffolk than the national average so I’m pleased the Government didn’t simply give support in the huge black spots in the country’s cities but also remembered that there’s youth unemployment in apparently prosperous areas like West Suffolk.”
In September, the total number of 18 to 24-year-olds on jobseeker’s allowance was 385 in St Edmundsbury, 190 in Forest Heath, 260 in Mid Suffolk and 265 in Babergh, according to official figures.
Mr Ruffley noted that Bury has a ‘strong vocational learning and training base’ at West Suffolk College.
Martyn Wagner, vice principal for business and community at the college, said: “We work with employers training over 1,260 apprentices each year across the region, many of them in the greater Ipswich area. The deal should provide more opportunity for the whole of our county.”
Cllr Derrick Haley, leader of Mid Suffolk District, and Cllr Simon Barrett, vice chairman of Babergh’s Startegy Committee, said: “It is another tangible piece of evidence that the concept of ‘Suffolk PLC’ is a growing reality.”
West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock added: “It is good news for all of Suffolk but I hope it will be just the beginning of a wider LEP deal which will have more direct benefits for us.”