THE Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in the North East in partnership with the County Durham Economic Partnership (CDEP) has launched a challenge to tackle youth unemployment across the County.

Youth unemployment is one of the biggest issues that the County faces despite a drop in numbers in recent months. Rather than come up with prescriptive solutions based on past performance the FSB and CDEP want to find new approaches that can tackle the problem.

Long term youth unemployment and those young people who are Not in Education, Employment and Training (NEET) have remained worryingly high for far too long. The number of unemployed young people in County Durham stands at 3,415 (March 2014). Of particular concern are the 1014 (March) young people that have been unemployed for over 12 months with a further 845 young people who are considered NEET.

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Working together with young people, families, businesses, the public sector and the community will allow for some unique approaches to emerge. To help achieve this the FSB and CDEP are taking a crowdsourced approach using the Simpl platform to get the widest possible response to this challenge.

The challenge will be open until the end of September to allow as many people as possible to submit an idea. The ideas that are submitted on the platform will then be voted on by the community to determine which could work. Those that are selected will develop the ideas into a workable proposition at an event in October.

Ted Salmon, FSB North East Regional Chairman, said: "Youth unemployment is a huge issue that the North East needs to get a grip on. Our challenge to everyone in County Durham is to help us tackle this and help our fantastic young people get a real chance to fulfil their aspirations.

“The area needs to move beyond just the tried and tested and the usual suspects to find new ways of tackling this problem. We’d love to see ideas being submitted from businesses, parents, grandparents, families basically anyone that has an interest in this. This is why we’re using the Simpl platform to gather these ideas from anywhere in the world to help us tackle youth unemployment.

“By working with the County Durham Economic Partnership and others we can start to make a dent into the numbers to help more young people achieve their aspirations.”

Brian Tanner, chair of the County Durham Economic Partnership, said:

“Employment, and particularly youth employment, is the top priority of the Partnership. County Durham faces very special difficulties due to its geography and population distribution. Hopefully the Simpl Challenge will inject fresh ideas that can be exploited to make a real difference to our objective of bringing down the present high level of youth unemployment.”