RESPONSE FROM THE DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION
EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT COMMITTEE
THIRD REPORT: SESSION 2000-01
RECRUITING THE UNEMPLOYED: WHAT CAN WE LEARN
FROM THE EXISTING RESEARCH EVIDENCE
1. A detailed response to each of the Employment
Sub-committee's recommendations is set out in Annex A. This covering
note outlines the background to those recommendations. It follows
the order of the introduction at paragraphs 8-61 of the committee's
Employers' Recruitment Practices [Paragraphs
8-17 of the Introduction to the Report]
2. The Government has set out a long-term economic
ambition that by the end of the decade there will be a higher
percentage of people in employment than ever before. It is committed
to meeting the crucial challenge to improve employment opportunities
for long-term unemployed people. Our aim is for at least three
quarters of the population of working age people to be in work
and the Government increasingly recognises the part improved links
between employers and this group of jobseekers can play.
3. As the report concludes, the attitudes of employers
towards certain groups can act as a barrier to employment for
many unemployed people. Many employers prefer to recruit people
who are either in employment or who have a recent employment history.
Even when employers are keen to recruit unemployed people, they
may be using recruitment criteria or processes which discriminate
against unemployed applicants; for example, specifying qualifications
or experience that are not really necessary to do the job, or
failing to notify vacancies to the Employment Service.
4. That is why the Government has set out a range
of measures to encourage employers to recruit unemployed people.
We believe that if these policies are effective in bringing more
people into the world of work then more vacancies can be turned
into jobs rather than remaining unfilled.
Overcoming Barriers [Paragraphs 27-35 of the
Introduction to the Report]
5. The Government's strategy has been to extend the
opportunity to work to all and thus reduce the proportion of working
age people living in workless households. For people at a real
disadvantage in the labour market, the success in finding sustainable
work depends on the extent to which the barriers that prevent
their employment can be removed or overcome. The Government believes
that it is important to address these issues of labour market
disadvantage. Policies and resources are aimed at helping those
who are most disadvantaged, including those outside or excluded
from the labour market, putting in place measures that will help
them compete for the jobs available.
6. That is why the Government has given a commitment
that every young person on the New Deal will be screened on joining
for basic skills problems and then given prompt help to overcome
such problems. Addressing basic skill requirements is a major
theme of all DfEE policies and is an important element of all
the active labour market policies.
7. The Government has also introduced Work Trials.
Their aim is to overcome caution on the part of both employers
and long term unemployed people. Evaluation of Work Trials found
that they are an effective way of helping jobseekers into work.
Six months after participating in a Work Trial jobseekers are
much more likely to be in work than members of a comparative group
who have not participated. Moreover, whether or not a Work Trial
participant was successful did not vary according to their age,
sex, ethnic origin and period of unemployment or level of qualification.
This indicates that Work Trials offer a genuine opportunity to
people who might not be considered by employers using conventional
Mainstream Intermediaries [Paragraphs 36-46
of the Introduction to the Report]
8. The Government believes that in addition to providing
targeted help for the groups with the greatest disadvantage in
the labour market, it is necessary to provide an efficient system
aimed at matching people with the jobs as they come up. The Jobseekers
Allowance and the work of the Employment Service in maintaining
regular contact with jobseekers and in obtaining and filling employers'
vacancies are important here. The initiatives aimed at giving
a greater work focus to people on 'inactive' benefits (including
the New Deals for the Disabled and Lone Parents and 'ONE') and
the planned establishment of an agency for all people of working
age on benefits are crucial elements in modernising the state's
role in helping people get into work.
9. The Government agrees that to focus on employers
alone as principal customers would risk losing the Employment
Service's distinctive role in helping the most disadvantaged jobseekers.
It agrees also that the closer the Employment Service is to understanding
and targeting employers' needs, the better it will be able to
serve those seeking employment.
10. That is why the Government has set up the New
Deal Innovation Fund. In addition to the Employment Service we
know there are many other organisations providing support for
people. These organisations can offer value independently from
statutory agencies; they can act as an intermediary between client
and employer, providing an effective link between employers' needs
and the labour market.
11. One of the principal objectives of the Fund is
to test the intermediary approach. Intermediaries can be public,
private or not-for-profit and need not be New Deal contractors.
The Employment Service can bid or form partnerships, and we are
keen to see increased involvement from local authorities, which
have a clear understanding of local needs and aspirations. We
believe that using intermediaries can offer a valuable way of
building on the support already available from the Employment
Service. Intermediary organisations can provide specialised pre-employment
and post-placement services. They can help unemployed and disadvantaged
people to get, keep and advance in jobs and careers. They help
to define business requirements and offer assessment and then
education and training that are specially customised for employers.
Many provide support services and skill development after job
placement along with training for front line supervisors. They
have an employer-focused, demand-led approach.
Demand-led Approaches [Paragraphs 26-57 of
the Introduction to the Report]
12. The UK Government believes there are few organisations
in the UK capable of delivering demand-led strategies at present.
That is why the Government launched the Innovation Fund in 1999.
The underlying principle of the Fund is that although New Deal
has made good progress in helping people to get and keep jobs,
the challenge remains to undertake a programme of continuous improvement
in the services New Deal provides. We want to focus on identifying
what employers wantthe demandand ensuring our clients
can meet those needsthe supply. We believe that the better
a programme meets employer requirements, the better it will be
at helping unemployed people succeed in the workplace. This will
help jobseekersand especially the most disadvantagedto
secure better paying jobs and achieve economic self-sufficiency.
13. Wildcat is an American organisation that provides
training and technical assistance for intermediaries interested
in implementing a demand-led approach. Like the Employment Sub-committee,
we welcome Wildcat's willingness to share its expertise in accelerating
the development of demand-led strategies. Through the fund, the
Government has set aside £9.5 million to support the development
of demand-led intermediaries in the UK. £5 million of the
fund has been ring-fenced for use in the 11 inner-city areas where
there are Employers' Coalitions. The objective is to support inner-city
intermediary organisations in developing demand-led strategies
that will increase the placement, retention and progression of
unemployed people in work. The remaining £4.5 million is
to be used to fund the same objective for the rest of the country
as well support continuous improvement projects under New Deal.
Expanding the Role of Employers in Employment
Assistance [Paragraphs 59-61 of the Introduction to the Report]
14. The Government agrees that employers should be
encouraged to develop a commitment to the community, and that
recruiting from the ranks of the unemployed is a practical demonstration
of such a commitment. Some employers have moved in this direction
through their active involvement in Employers' Coalitions and
through membership of New Deal Partnerships.
15. Over the last three years the Employment Service
has been engaged in a major programme of change to deliver improved
services to employers and to involve them more fully in developing
the Employment Service's operations and initiatives. The active
involvement of employers is critical to the successful development
of intermediaries and demand-led recruitment strategies.
16. The Government notes the Employment Sub-committee's
comment on the future nature of the Employment Service. It is
essential that the Employment Service continues to accord high
priority to helping into work those who are most disadvantaged.
This is entirely consistent with its position as a public service
agency and with giving the needs of employers' equal treatment.
The more the Employment Service can come to understand the needs
of employers the more it can place suitably qualified clients
in the right jobs.
17. Employers too have a role here. There is a hardheaded
business case for employers to recruit from the ranks of unemployed
people, particularly when there is a tight labour market. Earlier
intervention from employers will ensure the provision of an adequately
skilled workforce. Getting the right people into the right jobs
eases bottlenecks, skill shortages and reduces the risk of inflationary
wage increases. With better matching of people and jobs it will
be possible to run the economy with a higher level of employment
and lower levels of inflation.