REGENERATION bosses have pledged to tackle rising unemployment and skills shortages in the Wakefield district.
A report by economic think tank the Centre for Cities places Wakefield bottom in the UK for the proportion of residents with high level qualifications - and according to Hemsworth MP Jon Trickett, rises in tuition fees will only serve to worsen the problem.
Fewer than 20 per cent of district residents have qualifications like degrees or NVQs, the report shows.
Andy Wallhead, Wakefield Council’s corporate director for regeneration, said: “In many areas within the report, Wakefield performs well and compares strongly with other similar sized cities and towns in the north. However, the report does highlight the low number of people with higher level skills qualifications and the linked lower levels of pay across many parts of our economy.”
The district was in the bottom 10 UK cities for earnings after a real-terms decline in wages caused by inflation and a public sector pay freeze.
Youth unemployment was also highlighted in the report after the rate of 16-24-years-olds claiming benefits doubled to 7.4 per cent.
Mr Trickett said: “The report makes bleak reading, revealing Wakefield as a low wage, low-skilled economy. Hemsworth constituency is heavily reliant on jobs in the public sector. The report indicates that those cities seeing the largest public sector job cuts will find it most difficult to generate new employment and the outlook for our area continues to be grim in the foreseeable future.
“One of the Coalition Government’s first acts was to abolish the ‘Aiming Higher’ project for students. I visited students from Hemsworth and Minsthorpe College involved in the project. These young people were being encouraged to lift their horizons and undertake further education and skills training.
“Figures in recent days have shown that the hike in tuition fees is also deterring individuals from continuing in higher education.”
Mr Wallhead added: “These are longstanding issues, that the council along with other partners in the Wakefield Enterprise Partnership and wider City Region need to address.”