JOBSEEKERS across Bradford have taken part in almost 5,000 voluntary employer-led placements or periods of work experience, via Jobcentre Plus, since a Government scheme started four years ago, according to new figures.
The Department for Work and Pensions said 4,930 had used the initiative - aimed at getting people into work by increasing skills and experience - between January 2011 and November last year.
Of those, said a spokesman, 2,560 happened between November 2013 and last November - more than double the number for the previous 35 months.
Across Yorkshire and the Humber, the total number was 49,020.
Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Bradford Council's portfolio holder for Employment, Skills and Culture, said: "From these figures the Government seems to want to focus on the high numbers of people who have been doing the Government's unpaid work experience.
"But what about focusing on how many people are getting a job instead! That's far more important and it's the figure we focus on for Bradford's own programmes. Eighty-five per cent of people on Bradford's Employment Opportunities Fund programme have found a job or gone on to further training and not gone back on to benefits.
"What's more, we pay the minimum wage for long-term work placements, which we are finding are of much more value at giving people the self-confidence and recent work experience they need.
"It shouldn't be just a numbers game, it's about supporting people to achieve their ambitions for successful working lives."
The DWP figures show that since the start of the scheme, 3,090 jobseekers in Bradford have taken part in work experience placements, which is a voluntary scheme where people can do a placement of two-to-eight weeks with a local employer.
Of those, 2,540 were in the 18-to-24 year olds' age group.
The remaining 1,840 took up places at sector-based work academies. They are voluntary employer-led schemes made up of pre-employment training, work experience placements and a guaranteed job interview.
One thousand of those were in the 18-to-24 year olds' category.
Employment minister Esther McVey said: "The young people I meet tell me that they need work experience to get a job – but they need a job to get work experience. That’s why we hugely expanded our schemes, which have now benefitted nearly half a million people, helping them to get their foot on the career ladder.
"Record numbers of people are now in work – with the majority of the rise in the last year being full-time jobs – and they are feeling more secure about having a steady income, and we are working closely with employers across the country to ensure jobseekers have the skills and experience that businesses need."