Overview of this campaign
The riots that hit London in 2011 sparked a national debate about social disengagement, especially among young people. The Evening Standard did a considerable amount of investigative work in the year after the riots, which highlighted youth unemployment as a particularly acute challenge. In short, without opportunities to get into work, youngsters felt increasingly disillusioned with their life and with society in general. For many newspapers, such an investigation into a social ill would have been an end in itself. However, since it became a free newspaper in 2009, the London Evening Standard has recognised that it has a responsibility not only to identify the problems of the city we serve, but also to tackle them if we can. When it came to employment, we concluded that there was excessive focus on graduate level opportunities and that too few firms were taking the time to understand the value of potential employees who had not, for a variety of reasons, been to university. Therefore, towards the end of 2012 we teamed up with City Gateway, a social enterprise based in East London which helps young people to find and prepare for formal apprenticeship opportunities. Our aim was to highlight the paucity of chances for non-graduates, show the world how much ability such youngsters could bring to the table and, ultimately, encourage employers to open up new apprenticeship schemes which would be beneficial to all. Every campaign the Standard has run in recent years has been something of a gamble: you simply never know how it will be received. But with our ‘Ladder for London’ campaign we set ourselves an ambitious target – to open up 1,000 new apprenticeships.
Results for this campaign
Getting Ladder for London off the ground was no mean feat. The partnership we developed with City Gateway - and subsequently with other apprentice providers around London – was crucial to the success of the scheme. And what success there was. Within weeks of launch, it was clear that the response from the public and the business sector was unprecedented. That so many youngsters got in touch to find out more, demonstrated clearly that our campaign’s primary motivation was well-founded. That such a large number of businesses – including such household names as Goldman Sachs and British Gas – were willing to offer opportunities to non-graduates showed that we had tapped into a fertile strain of thinking among employers as well. As offers of new apprenticeships rolled in, youngsters were matched to the available placements. We regularly kept the front page free to feature the wonderful stories generated by the scheme, keeping readers interested and engaged with our campaign. More coverage meant more employers coming on board, which in turn meant more opportunities for young people, many of whom had struggled for years to find companies willing to give them a break. Politicians of every hue lined up to praise our campaign; and HRH Prince Andrew agreed to become its patron. By continuing to run the campaign at full throttle throughout 2013, we were able to reach our target and then some: by the end of December, over 1,270 apprenticeships had been made available. Ladder for London could not, of course, provide a complete solution to the problem of youth unemployment. But aside from providing real and lasting opportunities for individuals, it inspired a much wider political debate and raised the profile of apprenticeships. And the idea has caught on, which is perhaps the most significant marker of its success. With luck, there will soon be a Ladder for Leeds, a Ladder for Liverpool and myriad Ladders elsewhere.