More than 125 young people have applied to become members of the new Young Combined Authority (YCA).
The YCA will play an important role representing the voice of 16 to 25-year-olds in the West Midlands region, which has one of the youngest populations in the country.
It will advise and challenge key policy at the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), and will be given 'Observer'¹ status on the WMCA Board.
The WMCA Board approved funding for the YCA in February, and young people were invited to sign up for 30 seats. Applications closed on August 5, with more than 125 young people applying for a place.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said:
"The response to the Young Combined Authority has been excellent, with so many strong applications from young people looking to make a positive difference to their region.
"We know the West Midlands is one of the youngest, most diverse regions in the country, and the YCA gives those young people, who are so important to our future, a chance to get their views heard at a high level.
"I look forward to hearing what issues the YCA raises, and listening to their views as we make decisions we hope will benefit everyone in our region."
Last week, social enterprise the Beatfreeks Collective, which has been appointed to help run the YCA, launched a report, Youth Trends, which showed 86% of young people in the region feel their concerns are not listened to by politicians. Despite this, 67% of those interviewed said they intended to vote in the next general election.
Anisa Haghdadi, founder and CEO of the Beatfreeks Collective, said:
"Most of the people we spoke to intended to vote in the next General Election, which demonstrates, despite many of the stereotypes, that young people are interested in politics."
The YCA was born out of the Leadership Commission's Leaders Like You report, published in June 2018, which said it was "critical" to "see the world through the eyes" of young people.
The report stated: "We recommend the creation of a Young Combined Authority, working in partnership with relevant youth organisations, to bring young people from all parts of our region together to build future political leadership capability and help us see the world through their eyes."
Cllr Brigid Jones, deputy leader of Birmingham City Council and WMCA portfolio holder for inclusive communities, said:
"Young people need to have their voice heard by those taking decisions on their behalf - especially in a region where there are 377,000 people aged 16 to 24.
"We've already seen young people take their own action to be heard by civic leaders, but the YCA will take that a step further, and provide a direct line between youth representatives and those sitting on the WMCA Board.
"I'm pleased so many young people applied for the YCA, and it’s important the final membership shows a balance of diversity, gender and geography to truly represent the young population of our region."
The YCA will meet between four and six times a year, with informal meetings taking place in between.
Today (August 12) is the UN’s International Youth Day, first announced by the UN General Assembly in 1999. According to the UN: “The day serves as an annual celebration of the role of young women and men as essential partners in change, and an opportunity to raise awareness of challenges and problems facing the world’s youth.”
The WMCA has recently launched the #WMSTRONG campaign, holding a pop-up youth event in Dale End, Birmingham, to highlight opportunities for young people during the summer. More information is available at: www.wmca.org.uk/wmstrong
And together with the Movement to Work charity, the WMCA is helping to arrange 1,000 work placements for young people in the West Midlands, helping them get valuable work experience and a potential foot in the door for a career or apprenticeship.
Cllr Jones has written a blog for International Youth Day, which can be found here: www.wmca.org.uk/news/youth-inclusive-decision-making-is-about-more-than-being-in-the-room/
The WMCA Constitution explains Observers as: "The Authority may invite Observers which are not Constituent Councils or Non-Constituent Councils to become Observers of the Authority providing that they comply with Standing Order 29.5.
"Observer status confers no legal status and is an arrangement between the Authority and a relevant Member of the Constituent Councils and/or the Non-Constituent Councils with the aim of promoting a shared strategic approach to joint working in the development of significant policy issues for the Authority area."