With implementation set to begin this summer, this exciting new initiative is just around the corner and I wanted to highlight some additional areas for thought.
There are many different reasons why people become detached from the world of work and will subsequently be referred to the Work Programme. It can be due to a build up of physical, mental or even psychological barriers to employment or simply a lack of knowledge through being absent from the labour market for a long period. Making that first step into employment is always tough. As HR managers and recruiters, we need to give people that helping hand to become motivated and ultimately progress through their careers.
As most people are aware, in order for the Work Programme to succeed there needs to be jobs available, and for this, we will be relying heavily on the private sector. The HR community can play a fundamental role in the programme’s success by, wherever possible within the constraints and best interests of the business, giving those who are further removed from the workplace a chance within the selection process.
A key challenge for employers is bridging the gap between the individuals captured by this programme and the skills required for the business. In many cases, these individuals cannot be judged solely on CV or interview performance, which are likely to compare unfavorably to those who are currently in work. Although difficult, we should be striving to make an assessment against future potential, rather than current circumstances. Another means of engaging those who are far removed from the labour market is through providing opportunities for volunteering and work experience; allowing individuals the crucial workplace experience they need and a chance to shine.
Equally, those providers delivering the Work Programme need to think innovatively and laterally about the ways they can engage with individuals and source sustainable employment. Providers need to analyse and recognise talent or skills which can be used in employment and match these to the needs of the local labour market. The need to engage with each person on an individual basis to identify the potential issues and look at avenues for getting them into employment is exactly what providers of the Work Programme should be doing. Providing employability advice, up-skilling and actually finding them a job is the first hurdle, but the crux of the issue is that this all needs to be done on a tight budget. It is indeed a challenge, but the rewards will be well worth it, not only for individual companies but for society as a whole.
Taking into consideration the current state of the UK economy, less traditional means of employment, such as self-employment or entrepreneurial routes, also need to be considered. Although it might not suit the masses, we need to ensure those individuals with the ability are encouraged, not stifled and self-employment is a recognised, supported and funded option.
The next issue is how do we motivate individuals to accept jobs that would not necessarily be their first choice of employment? Perhaps we have to face facts that some jobs are neither engaging nor interesting. However, in this current economic climate, a job is a job and providers need to educate individuals to see that any job offers them better prospects than unemployment. Thorough in-job support is also crucial in order to emphasise skills gained and how they will assist in life development. This really needs to be enforced as employee engagement is key to not only individual success but also to that of a company’s growth.
In addition, we must look to the future and think about preventing a similar situation occurring within the next generation. Identifying and working with individuals whilst they are still in the education system will help try to tackle and reduce the number of NEETs in advance.