Memorandum from Gateshead Council
As the unemployment rate continues to decline,
there needs to be a reassessment of the approaches undertaken
to help people return to employment, as the needs of the residual
clients are harder to address. It is often the long-term unemployed
that lack the necessary skills to return to the labour market.
Local Authorities are often best placed to support
the types of intervention needed to assist a return to the labour
market. Intermediate labour market development, which is often
difficult to establish and fund, can be supported by a pro-active
Local Authority, which by its very nature is not for profit and
which has the best interests of local residents at heart.
ILMs provide the support that many people require
to develop new skills, and offer a period of paid employment to
introduce clients to the world of work. In addition, they offer
the valuable function of providing a track record in the workplace.
Gateshead Council has been instrumental in the
development of "Renew" a White Goods recycling project
(fridges, washing machines, etc), which will train residents from
deprived communities to find employment as technicians, etc and
create sustainable employment selling these recycled units commercially.
The Council also has an excellent track record
in developing viable community enterprises providing employment
and local services. These enterprises provide a first step for
people to be supported into the workforce but also they provide
a valuable regeneration function within communities, where commercial
organisations would not normally be prepared to invest. Currently
there are upwards of 120 people employed in local enterprises
which the Council has assisted to set up.
Community enterprises give local residents a
foothold in the jobs market, often (but not exclusively) close
to home. They can enable people (especially those who have never
worked) to become aware of the skills needed to be a productive
worker, and overcome barriers to returning to work, such as the
need for childcare, within a supportive environment which can
be a springboard for a chosen career. The Council has many examples
of people who have lacked direction or motivation and through
their involvement in enterprise have either moved into higher
paid work or have gained the confidence to go into further or
Gateshead Council also works proactively to
assist its unemployed residents.
The Connections Project funded through SRB and
ESF, aims to assist local residents to access local employment
opportunities. Many of the clients who come forward are long term
unemployed, often coming from second or third generation unemployment.
An important part of the work has been to develop
training to increase employability skills. A wide range of training
has been offered including first step courses in Basic Computing,
Confidence Building for Women, First Aid and Health & Hygiene.
Clients often begin by undertaking such courses to build confidence
and improve basic skills.
More recently training has been organised to
meet gaps in the labour market such as Forklift Truck Driving,
Warehousing, Car Valeting, Call Centre and Integrated Care. All
participants undergo accredited training and are guaranteed a
job interview with an employer on completion of the course.
In addition, courses have been geared towards
areas of work for which many of Connections Clients would not
be able to compete without assistance. To that end, an Overseas
Representatives Course, including workshops on Performing Arts
has been delivered to a group of young people from the targeted
priority areas of Gateshead. Three large travel companies were
approached and were keen to get involved by offering guaranteed
job interviews to all successful participants. As a result, of
the 11 young people taking part, six have so far gone into employment
and will be flying off to Europe as representatives, with others
still awaiting interviews with a large national employer.
Along similar lines, Gateshead Connections has
just begun recruiting for a course which will be delivered by
ASSA (Automotive Strategic Sector Alliance) aimed at getting people
jobs in the highly competitive Car Industry. The 16 successful
applicants will undergo an eight week programme tailored to provide
the skills needed to work in the Industry. The Course will include
a one week production line trial and a guaranteed job interview.
The Connections Project recognises the need
to offer its client group long term support in their effort to
gain quality permanent employment. However, this is not always
a straightforward process, as people who have been out of the
labour market for a long-term period have difficulty in making
Nevertheless, low paid, temporary jobs should
not be overlooked as they can provide a stepping stone to a position
of much higher quality. With this in mind, the project has organised
a range of Employment Events, where employers with current vacancies
are brought together with local jobseekers.
A model of success, is an annual Retail Event
which enables local residents to apply for seasonal vacancies.
Although the majority of jobs are of a temporary nature, the skills
and experience gained by taking up these vacancies, as well as
an up to date Employer reference, are invaluable in providing
a springboard for clients to move on to permanent jobs.
The project assists a wide age range of clients,
but acknowledges that barriers such as low aspirations are difficult
to address the older a person gets, and the longer a person is
Youth unemployment (encompassing low skills
levels) is prevalent in the Gateshead area. Innovative work needs
to be undertaken to encourage those who may have been socially
excluded from an early age to realise their potential and compete
successfully in the labour market.
For the past two years the Connections Project
in partnership with Tyneside Careers and the Council's Public
Works Department has actively recruited groups of young people
who would not normally be able to access mainline opportunities
due to low educational achievements, school non-attendance or
just negative attitudes towards the world of work because of being
entrenched in second or third generation unemployment. These young
people undertake an intensive training programme including Communication
Skills, Team Building, Confidence Building, IT, First Aid, Health
& Safety, Jobsearch and Interview Techniques with the aim
of preparing them to apply for modern apprenticeships with the
Council's Public Works Department. Indeed, in total eight young
people successfully gained apprenticeships who would have not
been able to access mainstream opportunities without such proactive
In Gateshead major regeneration schemes have
given the opportunity to enhance the job opportunities of local
people. In the SRB funded Gateshead Quays development through
close links with large developers it has been possible to identify
vacancies which can be filled by local labour as well as identifying
training needs and opportunities to increase local employment
prospects. Within the last six months approximately 20 local people
have been linked with jobs in local construction.
A key element which contributes to the success
of the work is the emphasis upon partnerships. The Employment
Service, Private sector partners and the voluntary sector are
all active in referring clients, offering work placements, assisting
with mock interviews and giving guaranteed interviews. Voluntary
sector placements are often secured as a means to enhancing an
individual's skills and confidence.
Gateshead Council often hosts international
sporting events and is keen to offer local people the opportunity
to benefit from these through both paid and voluntary work, however
to allow unemployed people to take full advantage of voluntary
placements and also gain training opportunities associated with
these it is important that there is clarity about what the unemployed
person is allowed to do without infringing benefit regulations.
Recent experience in Gateshead has shown that conflicting information
has been given to claimants regarding payments in kind, eg transport
and meals resulting in drop out of expensively trained volunteers.
In addition occasionally it is possible to offer voluntary work
placements of up to one week durationgiving valuable work
experience and traininghowever the current 16 hour rule
prevents uptake of this. As NVQ awards are linked to work experience
it would be very helpful to have greater flexibility.
The possibility of creating an Intermediaries
fund is welcome. However it is important that this can be available
to all organisations who can produce high quality outcomes for
the target groups and therefore this should also include Local
Authorities. The Council is able to work credibly within local
communities, where very often many years of development work have
already been invested. It is essential that the work is perceived
as a long term sustained investment in the area and not just a
"quick fix" solution.
It is hoped that this response will give some
idea of the scope and the quality of the work which is being undertaken
in Gateshead and will also bring to your attention the added value
to the client of high quality provision through a visionary and
pro-active Local Authority.