EXTRA support is being offered to young people at risk of unemployment – or whose education or training could end – due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Online help is being provided as latest figures show that the number of jobless people across West Yorkshire has soared since the start of the crisis.

There are now 49,500 people of working age claiming unemployment benefits – an 87 per cent increase compared to the pre-lockdown period in March.

And around 380,000 people in West Yorkshire – just over a quarter of the working-age population ­– are classed as having low or no qualifications.

The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, whose area includes Keighley, says helping young people build essential skills and keep developing is a “serious challenge” and key to the economic recovery.

It has launched a range of support through its FutureGoals website, futuregoals.co.uk/education-and-training.

Help available includes an employment hub service which matches job seekers to employers, tailored careers support, advice on starting a business, links to university and college courses, videos, apprenticeship details and home-learning activities to gain new skills, practice interview techniques and create a CV.

It is hoped to provide reassurance to the district’s school and college leavers that a number of options are available, despite the pandemic.

One student from the area who has already benefited is Mae Presley, a year ten pupil.

She said: “Being aged 14 during a global pandemic and having to learn from home hasn’t been easy. At first, I enjoyed having time at home, but I quickly realised that missing so much school could have a huge effect on my future and that felt quite worrying.

“Being able to find advice and resources on FutureGoals has really helped me understand my options.

“I’m hoping to start an engineering apprenticeship when I leave school next year and through FutureGoals, I’ve realised I can get support from the employment hub to help me plan my next steps in beginning the apprenticeship.”

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council and chairman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said the support – which includes a series of free interactive resources to equip teachers and parents – was hugely important.

She added: “The impact of Covid-19 has seen many of our young people out of education, at a time crucial in their future development, causing them to feel worried and uncertain about their next steps.

“It is vital for our economic recovery that our future workforce is supported with clear guidance to develop the skills needed to succeed in their careers.”