Select Committee on Education and Employment Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


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 higher education.


  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 that transition.

  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 unemployed.

  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 assistance.

  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 duration—giving valuable work experience and training—however 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.

Gateshead Council

March 2000

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 7 February 2001