BUSINESS bosses in South Tyneside have come out fighting to defend the borough’s record on employment.
They insist the future is not all doom and gloom after the latest figures showed jobless rates are rising.
According to last week’s unemployment figures, 7,227 people, or 7.2 per cent of the working age population in South Tyneside, are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance – up almost 500 on the previous month.
And youth unemployment in the borough, affecting those aged 18 to 24, rose from 2,130 to 2,275.
Overall, 15.3 per cent of the borough’s working age population is jobless, compared with 8.1 per cent nationally.
Geoff Ford, MBE, 68, chairman of Tyne Dock-based Ford Aerospace, led the charge, saying: “The message from manufacturing is that businesses have employed the young people who have been pro-active in promoting themselves.
“They have used their initiative and sent CVs to potential employers and brought themselves to their attention.
“Employees have been impressed by the calibre of young people they have seen. The unemployment figures are disappointing, but it is not all doom and gloom.”
He added: “One manufacturer in the borough has just had the best year in its 65-year history, and another has had its second-best ever year in terms of sales and profit.”
Nigel Binnie, 48, co-owner of South Shields independent menswear stores Northern Threads and Edit Clothing, told of his frustration at the bleak picture being painted.
He said: “People are always trying to knock South Tyneside, but there is much good going on. People need to pull together, not knock the place.
“Businesses like mine are important. We employ 18 people full and part-time, about six of whom are under 21.
“We are advertising for two part-time staff and have had a good response. I’ve found that people here really want to work.”
Moira Shaftoe, education co-ordinator with Made in South Tyneside, an organisation aimed at inspiring schoolchildren towards work, said progress was being made.
She added: “There is a lot of youth unemployment but there are a lot of partnerships evolving in South Tyneside.
“These are working together to address this issue. I believe the future is a little brighter.”
And Independent Alliance councillor Gordon Finch, 73, said: “There are many things that could be better, but there is still hope around.
“Apprenticeships are there for young people, but I think the problem can sometimes be that they expect too much money at first.
“We need to become better at backing ourselves up, and standing our corner because we have to.”