South West Regional Skills Enterprise and Employment Analysis 2007/2008
6.8 Tackling worklessness
The ESF Impact Report found that worklessness is a difficult agenda to address, especially when targeting hard-to-reach groups as the South West ESF programmes have done. The evaluation has revealed a number of issues that are important when considering options for addressing worklessness in the future, the three most important being:
National research(111) has found that training linked to employer placements and work experience has proven to be effective. However, the ESF Impact Report showed that, few worklessness projects involved employers in delivery, with only 7% of unemployed and 28% of inactive beneficiaries benefiting from work placements.
The ESF Impact Report proposes that new ESF programmes should continue to build on the areas where ESF has successfully added value in the past. In particular:
Issues not yet successfully tackled by the programmes include:
The ESF Impact Report recommends that:
6.8.1 Tackling worklessness through skills
A wealth of evidence suggests that skills and qualifications are important to individuals, the economy and society. People with qualifications are more likely to be employed than those with lower or no qualifications. Higher levels of literacy and numeracy are associated with a greater likelihood of being in work. Many people face multiple barriers to employment, and when an individual faces a range of barriers to employment, having no skills or qualifications may be a contributory factor preventing them from moving into employment.
There is currently a long tail of low-qualified and low-skilled adults who are increasingly inactive in the labour market. Improving qualifications and skills levels of these individuals will be essential to increase productivity, maximize output and improve social equity, as well as maintaining and increasing employment rates.
A recent evidence report, DfES and DWP: A Shared Evidence Base: The Role Of Skills In The Labour Market(112), looked at the impact of skills and employment related interventions on the labour market.
It concluded that employment-focused programmes have generally had more impact on initial employment chances for the low-skilled and are more cost-effective than education-focused programmes but the jobs low-skilled people move into are typically low-paid and provide few prospects for progression. This in turn results in ‘churn’ whereby workers move back and forth into unemployment.
Training is therefore likely to be necessary to help move some of the
low-skilled group into work. This evidence suggests that: developing
strong links with employers; a clear work focus; use of employer placements;
and support which is tailored to meet individual needs are critical features
of successful initiatives.
In the Budget 2006, the Chancellor commissioned the Leitch Review to consider how better to integrate skills and employment services. Skills, and particularly qualifications, offer individuals the flexibility to advance, change jobs and careers. The Leitch Report highlights the fact that significant problems exist with job retention at basic entry levels: around two-thirds of all Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claims each year are repeat claims. This issue is of significance to many parts of South West due to the seasonal nature of employment on offer.
The Leitch Report has therefore proposed a new integrated employment and skills service, drawing together existing services such as Jobcentre Plus and the new adult careers service. This would offer universal access to work-focused careers advice, basic skills screening, job placement and links to in-work training. Common objectives and aligned incentives would drive delivery which would be monitored by the Commission for Employment and Skills and Employment and Skills Boards. The aim would be to ensure individuals receive effective support to get into work, stay in employment and progress.
The Chancellor’s Pre-Budget Statement 2006 accepted the need for a “strong, coherent employer voice at the heart of the skills system”, and that this should be delivered through the new Commission for Employment and Skills, recommended by the Leitch Review. In advance of the creation of the Commission, Sir Digby Jones has agreed to take on the role of the Government’s Skills Envoy, working with all employers to help build a national consensus about the need to work together to improve the UK’s skills.
The evidence suggests that there is much to be gained by ensuring a strong integration of skills and employment if job retention is to be achieved and if a solution is to be found to increasing unemployment amongst the low-skilled.
Evidence also supports pre-employment and post-employment support activities
as a way of improving job retention. There is limited funding available
for this activity and that which takes place is heavily reliant on ESF
funding. This should form an important part of the ESF framework for
(111) DfES and DWP: A Shared Evidence Base: The Role
Of Skills In The Labour Market, DfES/DWP, 2007
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