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A positive employment picture for Dartford?

PUBLISHED: 13:55 07 November 2012 | UPDATED: 14:02 07 November 2012

Sian Coyne

Sian Coyne

Archant

During tough economic times, queues outside UK JobCentres have been growing over the past four years.

But take a look at the most recent figures for Jobseeker’s Allowance in Dartford and there is something to be positive about.

Unemployment fell by 12 per cent to 1,742 people between September 2011 and 2012, bringing the figure down to its lowest since December 2010.

And young people made a significant impact on that fall – there was a 23 per cent reduction in 18 to 24-year-olds signing on in the past year.

In Kent – where boroughs such as North Thanet and Ashford saw their list of job seekers grow – Dartford achieved the biggest decrease.

Dave Ashdown, head of JobCentre Plus in Kent, says there are a number of factors behind the news.

“Despite some of the town’s challenges, Dartford is quite well positioned in terms of transport links within the county,” he says. “It is good to have things like Bluewater within the borough, but there are also the transport links into London. From that point of view, the travel to work area is pretty good.”

So is everyone making the schlep to the capital? Mr Ashdown says this isn’t the case entirely and job seekers have gone on to find work both in Dartford and London.

“Not everybody is going to London, it is a combination of both. We had some jobs on the back of the Olympics. New jobs were created and employers transferred permanent staff elsewhere and needed temporary staff,” he says.

While Dartford welcomes the good news, five miles down the road Gravesend’s dip in unemployment doesn’t match.

Gravesham has just 65 fewer job seekers than last September, bringing the total to 2,595, and saw only a 10 per cent reduction in 18 to 24-year-olds out of work.

Understanding Dartford’s success and bringing it to Gravesham and the rest of Kent is Mr Ashdown’s priority.

“It should be the same labour market in Gravesham,” he says. “We are looking to understand why figures would be different.”

Work experience has been a big success in Dartford, he says, especially thanks to the partnership with The Learning Shop in Bluewater which offers training for everyone, from those leaving education to those returning to work.

“Since April in Dartford 77 young people have done work experience and 48 of those have gone into employment as a result. I don’t think it is much less in Gravesham,” says Mr Ashdown.

Yet it isn’t all rosy for Dartford.

More than six per cent of all 18 to 24-year-olds in Dartford are still claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, which is higher than the South East average of 4.8 per cent, and in Gravesham it is as high as nine per cent.

And the recent figures are not a definite move up and out of high unemployment, Mr Ashdown warns.

“We are closely watching the situation. There are some positive signs, but obviously we have to keep an eye on what’s happening. You never know what’s going to be around the corner.”

Sian Coyne, 21,

I was unemployed for six months but have finally got a job in JD Sports. The Job Centre put me on a retail course at the Learning Shop in Bluewater. It’s been really good, they’ve been teaching us about how to act in interviews and how to dress. I was also told about a jobs fair here where you go around and meet employers. I had a mini interview for JD Sports and then they called me in for a proper interview and then offered me a job. Being unemployed for six months was pretty hard. I worked in retail before but lost my job. I applied for a lot of jobs but they all said they had other applicants who were better. I had one interview but they were interviewing over 200 people. There were so many people looking and probably hundreds of people more experienced than me.

Philip Godfrey, 21

I’ve been looking for work since I graduated in July. I studied Drama and Theatre but I’m applying for anything really, like bar work and waiting that I did before university. The jobs are out there but more people are going for them. I don’t mind where I work as long as I can get there from my parents’ house as I can’t afford to move out. It seems it’s who you know and not what you know. If a vacancy comes up in a bar then they can easily fill it that day. When me and my friends left university we were told there would be so many opportunities but we are all struggling and it is the harsh reality. It is quite demoralising. It isn’t giving us a positive vibe to aspire to. I’m going to try to commit to what I want to do but I don’t think I will be able to. I just need to find a job.

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