CAMPAIGNERS in Oldham have called for pledges to support job opportunities for the hard-hit ‘Class of 2020’.

Oldham Youth Council says the borough had the highest youth unemployment rate across Greater Manchester, around the start of lockdown, at 15.1 per cent.

And the council fears the expected economic slowdown, with falling wages and limited opportunities, could hit school, college and university leavers.

Youth council officials have filed a motion, due to be debated on Wednesday at a full council meeting, asking for a commitment to providing ‘quality’ job opportunities for young people, especially within the emerging digital sector.

And the youth council wants a review of current apprenticeships on offer, to ensure the range is adequate and for the authority to consider offering more digital apprenticeships, as one of the borough’s largest employers.

Their demands were drawn up after a consultation of young people in Oldham.

It is feared lockdown has put serious strains on their mental health, with educational establishments closed and furloughs across industry, including service industries which teenagers use to support themselves during college and university studies.

A youth council spokesman said: “The risks to the borough could be particularly devastating to young people as the reported youth unemployment rate in Oldham in May 2020 stood at 15.1 per cent, the highest across Greater Manchester.

“This will be again increased as the employment rates of graduates entering work during the pandemic are projected to be 13 per cent lower than they would have been without the crisis, while rates for mid and low-skilled workers risk falling even more, by 27 per cent and 37 per cent respectively.”

Council research has also focused on what expected wages will be like for the ‘Class of 2020’ with the Nuffield Foundation reporting that graduate pay could be between seven and 19 per cent lower, depending on the level expertise.

“There are also questions about whether there will be work for those who have been furloughed, let alone for those only just beginning to enter the labour market,” added the spokesman.

“This all paints a rather grim picture for the future employment of young people.”

New technology skills had followed, with Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom now more widely used.

The spokesman added: “Lockdown has brought many negatives in all different aspects of life, however we do not want these to overrule the positives that have come from working online. We need to open up opportunities for young people and we would like to see designated apprenticeships for young people within the digital industry to enable the skills Oldham’s young people have gained are used and not wasted.