Committee Visit to Birmingham - 13 June
[An extract of the brief supplied by the DWP is
attached as Appendix A.]
Birmingham City Council
[Mr Paul Spooner, Head of the Economic Department.]
Mr Spooner described major local projects, such as
the reconstruction of the Bull Ring, which were vital in providing
new local jobs for local people. On the supply side, local agencies
were working hard in local communities via Employment Resource
Centres, which were supported by ESF money matched by the Council,
aimed at hard to reach people, many of whom were outside the system
and working in the black economy. There were also particular problems
faced by Asian women and disabled people who were difficult to
place in work.
The City Council leads in planning and development
and uses this as a platform for job creation. Other groups cover
areas such as health, construction, major retail investment and
voluntary service groups.
The Learning and Skills Council was also involved
in the strategic group identifying basic skills needs. The City
Strategic Partnership also had responsibility for Neighbourhood
Renewal and delegated most responsibility to local wards. The
partnership included a small external funding team which sought
funds once strategies were set.
Employers have a partnership with the City Council
via Business Link and other organisations such as 3B (Black Business
in Birmingham). The nearby Jewellery Quarter had 1,200 small businesses,
31 per cent of whom did not have a computer.
Mr Spooner suggested that certain changes would further
improve the situation:
- fewer new (Government) initiatives; and
- fewer conflicting or overlapping boundaries.
Jobcentre Plus, West Midlands Regional Office
[The Committee held informal discussions over
a working lunch attended by Ms Margaret Tovey, District Manager,
Jobcentre Plus, Mike Beasley, Executive Director of Jaguar Cars
and Chair of Birmingham Employer Coalition, representatives of
Birmingham Strategic Partnership, Pertemps Employment Alliance
and Mr Peter Tomlinson from a local radio station. For full attendance,
see Appendix B.]
The Birmingham Employment Coalition covered a cross-section
of industrial and commercial sectors. Its key aim was to ensure
that the recruitment needs of local employers was reflected in
employment policies. It acted as a "friendly critic".
It was vocal and active especially via the National Employment
There had been a change in mindset in recent years
and membership of the coalition was being reviewed to ensure wide
representation. It was also trying to find ways to support Jobcentre
Plus local account managers.
The work was driven mainly by sector but some topics
(e.g. ethnic minorities) covered several sectors. The manufacturing
sector still accounts for approximately 30 per cent of job opportunities.
It was vital for Jobcentre Plus to understand the needs of employers.
Local account managers played a vital role.
A relaxation of the criteria for referral to programmes
would be welcome, although it was pointed out that this would
have resource implications. There should be more local discretion
and fewer targets for Jobcentre Plus. There should be some classification
of the levels of disadvantage. There was a culture of exclusion
(particularly for those involved in the black economy).
More attention should be given to the New Deal 50+
and to those in that age-range.
Pertemps Employment Alliance
[Mr Colin Burchall, Managing Director, Mr Steve
King, Operations Director.]
Pertemps Employment Alliance (PEA) had the contract
for the Birmingham Employment Zone. It was their only EZ contract
and is the largest single Zone contract awarded. Birmingham was
the most ethnically mixed of all the EZ areas, with 48 per cent
of participants from ethnic minorities. Of the first tranche of
9,700 participants (from April 2000), provisional figures showed
that 36 per cent went into work, and 83 per cent were still in
work 13 weeks later. The basic entry criteria for EZ assistance
was that a person, aged 25 or more, had been unemployed for at
least 12 months. At the time of referral, the average length of
unemployment was 4.2 years.
The key feature of Employment Zones, was that they
were completely privately run and had greater flexibility, compared
to government-run programmes, in what they could put together
as a package of assistance for individuals. For example, PEA had
a 'Making Music Work' project which organised events showcasing
Pertemps clients - designed to make links between performing musicians,
technicians, and the music industry.
Edgbaston Cricket Centre
At Edgbaston Cricket Ground, Home of Warwickshire
County Cricket Club, the Committee was shown the 'Cricket without
Boundaries' motivation course set up between the Club, PEA and
South Birmingham College. There were two courses: a three-week
course for people aged 25+ run with PEA and a 16+ course run for
13 weeks with the college. Using both an onsite classroom and
the sports facilities at the club, the courses aimed to use the
medium of sport to teach teamwork, leadership skills, and build
self-esteem. The courses were a route both into education and
employment. The community also benefited from what was being offered.
One offshoot was the training of people as sports coaches, going
into local schools. Roughly 3,500 children per week were getting
sports coaching as a result. They were also operating in Brinsford
Young Offenders Prison.
Sparkill Employment Zone Centre
[The Committee then visited the Pertemps Local
Centre in Sparkhill. The group was divided, making comprehensive
note-taking difficult, but the Committee saw the general activity
of a very busy centre and met with representatives and clients
of Action Teams.]
This is one of seven development centres across the
Employment Zone. Members and Committee staff were greeted by Jag
Sandhu (Sparkhill Centre Manager) and then given an individual
Employment Zone coach to explore different facets which make up
the Employment Zone's current activities. The Chairman looked
at special needs services (Dyslexia Workshop) and New Deal for
Disabled. Mr Goodman looked at training - retail training and
a language class. Mrs Humble looked at Employer Linkage, in particular,
recruitment services with Dura Automotive a supplier to the motor
trade. Between September 2001 and January 2002, PEA co-ordinated
five recruitment events resulting in 43 job offers to unemployed
clients. Mr Mitchell was taken to see the work done in assisting
people towards self-employment. Philip Moon was taken to see the
work of PEA with the Scarman Trust (working with ethnic minority
communities to develop strategies for increased employment, better
social conditions and social inclusion), and Action Teams for
Jobs. Janet Allbeson was shown Special Projects: the promotion
of use of banking facilities for Step 2 Zone clients; a partnership
project with Gwinto (Gas and Water Industry National Training
Organisation) running a 28-week fast track programme to provide
people with the necessary core skills to undertake gas installation
duties for the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme; the childcare recruitment
project offering an introductory three-day course to raise awareness
of career pathways within the childcare field; the New Deal for
Lone Parents; and 'Making Music Work' - a project which in addition
to helping musicians find outlets also offers classroom learning,
ideas on self-employment opportunities and gives clients the possibility
of using their skills in local education.