As you will probably know The Work Programme is aimed at supporting the most vulnerable people and helping them break the cycle of benefit dependency. It represents a big change for Welfare to Work in this country and tries to create a structure that treats people as individuals and gives providers greater freedom to tailor the right support to each individuals needs. Exciting I’m sure you’ll agree.
Whilst this is great news it does mean we must all bear the target of having this new programme in place nationally by summer 2011; another deadline to add to our ever growing list of jobs. The good news is that it is already progressing, with the prime contractor framework being announced recently, so at least we are hitting the ground running and we need to make sure we continue to uphold this fast pace.
Although it will replace much of the confusing array of existing programmes for unemployed people, there are still a lot of unanswered questions at the moment, predominantly around the practicalities of actually delivering the programme at an operational level. One of the most prevalent of which seems to be staffing. As all HR professionals will know, staffing is no easy thing and with this new programme being implemented, it brings a few more problems. One of these is where the staff are going to come from to deliver these programmes. It is great this initiative has been implemented but do we, as a nation, actually have the staff levels and experience required to carry it out?
Inevitably there will need to be an increase in staff, amongst both prime and sub-contractors. Crucially, these staff will need to be from a diverse range of backgrounds, bringing with them a mix of skills, abilities and experiences in order to deal with and help the range of job seekers who will be from a multitude of different cultures and backgrounds. The responsibilities of these employees within the welfare to work industry will extend far beyond training and providing CV writing, interview and job seeking advice. In many cases, their key role will be to motivate. As we are all aware it takes a certain type of person to motivate, you can’t gain the title ‘Mr Motivator’ easily that’s for sure. Everyone is motivated by different needs as Maslow outlined in his famous hierarchy, and this needs to be taken into account. These needs, are somewhat enhanced within a person who has been unemployed for many years and who is expected to turn up to an interview on time etc. We would question how many people are actually out there who have these niche motivational skills and as a recruiter, I feel it is our duty to track them down.
As a country we do sadly have a large proportion of unemployed people and the Work Programme is aimed at these individuals to help get them back on the career ladder and give them the motivation needed to move on. Getting a Graduate to attend an interview on time and dressed appropriately is easy, but helping the less motivated is more challenging. With that said a challenge it is and a challenge I except and this is why we are so pleased the Government has introduced a programme which will help these people and we are 100% behind it.
There are of course those who may not require help to get onto the career ladder for example unemployed graduates and public sector workers. It is imperative the industry recruits people who have the ability to work with the long-term unemployed. After all, these are the people who really need the help that the Work Programme can provide. The unemployed graduates and public sector workers, for example, may well find employment without its help. It is also vital that Welfare to Work recruits employees with the ability to broker effective relationships within the industry; imperative considering training providers delivering the programme are paid on sustained employment.
One of the key difficulties we recognise is that there are no clear routes into the Welfare to Work sector making it more difficult to attract both experienced staff and talented new entrants. It is not a well-publicised or aspirational career choice and is one of those industries that people almost fall into, rather than seek to join. I strongly feel we need to make channels increasingly accessible so the door’s open to people and they are welcomed in, helping us find the perfect employees for the Welfare to Work sector.
New entrants to the industry could and should come from a wealth of backgrounds. A range of different candidate attraction methods will need to be deployed and selection criteria will need to be designed based on competencies, abilities and experiences. As I hope you will agree, for this staffing issue a CV or interview ‘tick list’ will not be sufficient when identifying the absolute best talent for these jobs. Saying this, once this talent has been sourced, it is essential training providers make sure career paths and routes for progression are designed correctly in order to ensure these talented individuals stay within the industry. Let’s make sure this happens, so we can meet our summer 2011 target and give the Welfare to Work sector the boost it requires – who’s with me?!