Sandra Theckston, Assistant Director (Inclusion), talks about the importance of working together to support residents into employment…
Adopting a new approach
Changes to the benefits system in 2012 placed much greater emphasis on rewarding people who are in work.
These changes required us to take a step back and recognise that we needed to offer something to our residents that really gave them a chance to secure a job.
At the time we had quite a high percentage of non-working residents, although it wasn’t a case of these people not wanting a job – they didn’t always have the skills or confidence to find a job or to get back into work.
To address this, we decided that we would launch a small team to cover the areas with the highest income arrears or where people received the most state benefit. We wanted to find out what we could do to really help these people get into work.
Five years on, we now cover all of our geographic areas and work closely with Radian’s Income/Community Investment teams to look out for those who could benefit from the employment, skills and training (EST) opportunities we provide.
Partnering for success
EST support is not a regulatory requirement, but creating a sustainable community is. Arguably the way you do that is to have not just a mix of housing tenures, but a mix of people.
EST focuses on people who are able to work, giving them the skills they need as well as the opportunities and introductions to local employers that can then lead to jobs.
As part of the process we are not just focused on our residents; we regularly speak with local employers to identify where there may be opportunities. For example, a new Costco’s opened in one of our areas so our EST Manager met with their HR team to discuss the employment opportunities that were available.
This engagement with the wider business community allows us to see where there might be gaps, which means we can help to upskill/reskill our residents so they can apply for these opportunities.
Further to this, as part of our tendering process we require suppliers to demonstrate a serious and effective commitment to providing training and employment opportunities for disadvantaged persons.
We also work with a range of professionals who donate their time to act as Employment Coaches. The support they offer is vitally important as it includes ongoing advice once a resident has found work.
We could not do our work without these strong partnerships with local employers, local authorities and people who are prepared to offer funding and time.
A range of support
We offer a wide variety of training and we always try to offer externally accredited qualifications so that they are transferrable for that person. Most importantly, all of this training is free to our residents.
This includes literacy courses and CV workshops as well as courses in Information Technology, forklift truck driving, health and safety, food hygiene, customer services and first-aid to name but a few.
We also provide advice and training ahead of interviews and we can provide the necessary attire if required.
It’s crucial that we promote these courses and raise awareness amongst residents. We do this predominantly via our resident magazine RMag, while we have fostered good relationships with the local press which helps to raise awareness of the training opportunities we offer.
More can be done
The Government’s introduction of the apprenticeship levy (which changed the way apprenticeship funding works) was a welcome step, but I would like to see more employers offering straightforward apprenticeships that are open to any age.
Training and support is important, but quite often you need a bit of experience as well as the qualifications to land a job. My hope is that we can work with other employers to offer people proper work-experience, regardless of their age.