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


Memorandum from Tomorrow's People

1.  What can the government do to encourage employers to recruit unemployed people?

The government can play a key role in encouraging companies to take on their responsibilities as corporate citizens within the community. By raising awareness of the wider benefits of recruiting long-term unemployed people such as the reduction in poverty-related crime, ill-health, low skills and low achievement and the increased well-being and prosperity of the local community, the government would be providing sound commercial incentives for businesses to engage in these issues.

  Whilst a number of the larger employers have embraced the corporate citizen philosophy, work still needs to be done to raise awareness of the wider consequences of long-term unemployment amongst the smaller to medium size companies. This could form part of the drive to recruit employers onto the New Deal programme alongside incentives such as the financial subsidies already on offer.

  It is crucial that this message is given equal if not greater emphasis than financial incentives when recruiting employers onto government initiatives such as New Deal. Whilst financial incentives are useful in helping some employers take on unemployed people and providing training, they must be managed with a view to a permanent solution and sustainable employment and not as short-term quick fixes. The long-term benefits to business of strengthening communities could become the main incentive to engage with the issue.

  Equally important is the need to forge new partnerships and strengthen existing ones between the Employment Service and like-minded organisations (be it training providers and/or recruitment agencies). The large recruitment drive for the Tate gallery where the Employment Service is helping to provide the bodies and Tomorrow's People is providing the pre-screening service through putting prospective applicants through workshops on things such as interview techniques, customer service and application forms shows how vital this partnership activity is. The agencies involved in these partnerships contribute a wide range of expertise to the process of getting people into sustainable employment.

2.  Would such measures help to reduce unemployment or simply lead to the displacement of other people who would have got jobs anyway?

  Experience shows that the main area of concern is when dealing with the mid to long term unemployed client group (six months and upwards) therefore any measures would need to be directed at this sector of the unemployed group.

  Those people who would have got jobs anyway would most certainly continue to do so without government assistance aside from the standard monetary benefits. In a strong economy with growing employment there is a sufficient turnover of vacancies to accommodate the easier-to-place client. In the event of a downturn in the economy and a slackening of the labour market, the job-ready candidates will be creamed off by employers.

3.  Even if this is the case, is it a good thing nonetheless because of its beneficial churning of the labour market?

  The churning of the labour market is vital as it reduces the percentage of long-term unemployed to the overall unemployment figure. If churn was not encouraged some long-term unemployed people who have already demonstrated their inability to secure jobs unaided would ultimately be excluded from the labour market, becoming more and more unemployable.

  Alongside this, however, it is crucial that any measures to help long-term unemployed people into work are carefully designed to ensure that scenarios such as the revolving door syndrome are avoided. Churning within the labour market is necessary but must not be used as a short-term fix creating movement amongst the harder to place clients as this runs the risk of alienating both employers and the client group.

  Alternatives to subsidy-only schemes which provide more focused career counselling and on-going support to employers and clients such as intermediary brokering, intermediate labour markets, mentoring and buddying are all options that help keep people in sustainable employment.

4.  What are employers doing to reach out to prospective employees who have been unemployed for some time?

  We have found that employers are willing to consider an adjustment to their normal recruitment criteria or processes to facilitate the recruitment of long-term unemployed people although they are not prepared to lower the standard to such a degree that they open the floodgates to inappropriate applicants.

  In order to reach the right conclusion employers prefer to be helped by someone who understands the commercial imperative and, at the same time, has an understanding of the needs, fears and abilities of unemployed people. Additionally, many employers appreciate the support of an expert intermediary on hand to help with any problems once the candidate is placed into employment. This aftercare support has proved extremely effective ensuring sustainability of employment and ensures the continued support of employers.

5.  Is there anything more that the Employment Service could do to promote the recruitment of unemployed people?

  One particular area where Employment Service could focus is a more active marketing campaign to promote the recruitment of unemployed people. This needs to be done in a dual level, firstly a more active marketing of the services available at the Employment Service Jobcentres to the clients that they serve. Secondly a campaign needs to be directed toward potential employers. Whilst a sterling job is already being done by the Employment Service, the type of employers they market their services to tend to be large well-known organisations (Tesco, M&S, the Tate Gallery, etc) which may solve a problem in the short-term but it is not a long-term solution in part due to the nature of the jobs on offer.

  Consequently the net needs to be cast even further, for example a further increase in the job sectors covered by the likes of Employment Service Direct. In addition closer links should be established with what is happening at local level, via the Chambers of Commerce for example.

6.  What kind of projects should the fund be used to support? Are there existing examples of good practice in this area?

  Projects which should be funded are those which perhaps fall out of the mainstream or instances where a small amount of financial assistance will allow an individual to regain employment. For example there are any number of IT courses which fall out of mainstream and are not funded under TEC provision (eg any MSCE course where a job is virtually guaranteed once you have the qualifications). Similarly it could be that an individual cannot gain employment because of simple issues like they do not have protective clothing, the right tools etc.

  Additionally, the intermediaries fund could be used to support employer-focused projects. An intermediary working closely with an employer, or group of employers in an area could positively encourage them to become involved.

  A successful example of this can be found in the Corporate Workroute scheme run by Tomorrow's People enabling organisations such as Unipart and AstraZeneca to recruit-long-term unemployed people on the New Deal scheme. The intensive support offered to employers and clients has meant a high proportion of participants have gained successful and sustainable employment.

7.  What can private employment agencies contribute to the recruitment of unemployed people?

  In the last few years there has been a growth in the number of private agencies (eg Reed) who have begun to deliver schemes such as the New Deal Programme. A major issue for these agencies will be the understanding of the needs of longer-term unemployed people who often face attitudinal as well as social and educational barriers.

  In order to tackle these barriers private agencies would benefit from forging close links with organisations that deal only with unemployed people such as Kennedy Scott, Training Network, Tomorrow's People, TBG, Rathbone CI, etc).

8.  What can be done to support career progression for people taking entry-level jobs after a period of unemployment?

  We question in part the statement that a lot of entry-level jobs (eg work in call centres) offer little scope for career progression within the employers organisation but can equip people with skills which other employers will value.

  This level and type of employment does equip people with transferable skills but additionally, the management structure of most organisations is strongly driven by internal appointment of people who have demonstrated the skills needed. Organisations trading on Internet (or at least some of them) will be hugely successful. Skills gained in a customer-focused job (ie call centres) transfer readily to Internet operations.

  That said, many entry-level workers would benefit from ongoing support which could be provided from the employer through accreditation of prior learning or Investors in People which provides the employer with a structure to move forward.

  The vital issue is not to abandon a person to an entry-level job, simply to gain a statistical outcome. The use of entry-level employment must be seen by the individual as part of a strategic plan to gain a career post. In that way they will be more committed to putting their efforts into the entry-level job in order to gain experience and secure good references for future employment. Throughout their sojourn in entry-level employment, the unemployed person should be given close mentoring support and career counselling.

Tomorrow's People

March 2000

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