What steps her Department is taking to promote employment opportunities in rural constituencies as the economy reopens and the covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased.
As the Minister responsible for this evolving labour market, I can say that the DWP is working hard to identify the most effective ways to support people back into work. We are clear that we are taking a targeted, place-based approach. I have attended regional stocktakes with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government economic recovery working group, which brings together mayors, local enterprise partnerships and other vital partners to share local knowledge.
I welcome not only the Government’s strong, effective measures on supporting employment through the job retention scheme but the extensive range of employment and support benefits. With that in mind, does the Minister agree that we need to support our next generation of agricultural workers, such as our farmers across Teesdale, whom we rely on not just to feed ourselves but for the future of our food security?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend: we should recognise the areas that have a proud history of agriculture, such as Teesdale. Our farmers have done and continue to do a fantastic job feeding the nation during this challenging time. Alongside the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the DWP has used our “job help” campaign to encourage farmers and employment agencies to use the Pick for Britain website to help them fill their vacancies.
One does not need to look much further than my own constituency of Dudley North—and those of my hon. Friends the Members for West Bromwich West (Shaun Bailey), for Wolverhampton South West (Stuart Anderson) and, indeed, for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes)—to see the terrible effects over a couple of decades of globalisation. Will the Minister reassure me and the House, despite the challenges posed by this pandemic, of her commitment and her Department’s commitment to the levelling-up agenda?
Our network of jobcentres is local and regional by design, and I mentioned earlier the place-based approach. We are ensuring that work coaches are ready to provide individualised support for claimants. The levelling-up agenda is a priority for this Government, and we have been building this into our discussions and plans when meeting Mayors, such as Andy Street, to get Britain back into work.
For my communities in Wednesbury, Oldbury and Tipton, jobs are going to be at the centre of this recovery. Can I ask my hon. Friend to elaborate a bit more on the work that she has been undertaking across Government and locally with local partners, and will she agree to meet me to discuss a Black Country jobs strategy as we move out of this pandemic?
Of course, I am very happy to meet my hon. Friend and continue to engage with him on developing these local, place-based recovery plans. As I have said, we have been working closely with the West Midlands Combined Authority, building, importantly, on our learning from the employment and skills framework, which underpins the current joint approach to supporting people locally back into work in the Black Country.
My constituency of North Norfolk is rural, and it faces many challenges. It is heavily reliant on the tourism sector, and without the fat of a full summer season, it could struggle to get through the winter. What steps can the Minister take to see a wider compulsory offering of apprenticeship schemes to enable younger people to stay in a good job, and to stay in the area where they grew up—a longing that all of us recognise?
Supporting our young people is a priority for me in this job. Apprenticeships are a great way for young people to start their careers, giving them that crucial opportunity to earn while they learn. Alongside the Department for Education, we at the DWP are supporting employers, especially small businesses, to take on new apprentices this year, and we will provide further detail in due course. We will also ensure that there is sufficient funding this year to support small businesses wanting to take this up.