Select Committee on Education and Employment Third Report


Expanding the Role of Employers in Employment Assistance

59. The Sub-committee was struck by extent to which employers in the United States, such as Xerox Corporation and Bell Atlantic, appeared to be active in developing programmes that would enable them to recruit successfully welfare recipients into positions where there were genuine vacancies. Bell Atlantic for instance not only supported Mercer County Community College in the development of its curriculum to provide more telephone engineers, but also funded and managed the 400-student Bell Institute.[111] In part this was due to the tight labour market in the US and the consequent need of employers to cultivate additional sources of labour supply.

60. There is a little evidence which suggests that some employers in the UK are adopting similar practices. For instance, to help Nissan in their large-scale recruitment of production operatives, the Employment Service worked with the Automotive Sector Strategic Alliance, Nissan and its suppliers to develop and run a New Deal Full Time Training and Education option for 18-24 year olds trainees.[112] Thorn Lighting Group in County Durham have run a pre-employment training course since 1994.[113] Morgan Stanley have established a relationship with Community Links, a nationwide charity consisting of a network of community-based initiatives, to support the recruitment and retention of a small group of disadvantaged young people in employment.[114] Despite these examples, and their impressive records of achievement, the practice is not widespread.[115]

61. Many of those who submitted evidence argued that employers should be encouraged to develop a commitment to the community, and that recruiting from the ranks of the unemployed would be a practical demonstration of such a commitment. Manchester City Council and Manchester TEC argued that there was a need to secure the commitment of employers to the principle of recruiting unemployed people and a need to provide packages of support to employers to assist their recruitment processes.[116] Tomorrow's People called for companies to take on their responsibilities as "corporate citizens within the community".[117] Indeed, it could be argued that some employers have moved in this direction through their active involvement in Employers Coalitions and through membership of New Deal Partnerships.[118] Atkinson and Meager argue that employers should be encouraged "to demonstrate good community citizenship".[119] The Black Training and Enterprise Group agreed, stating that "employers should realise their moral and social obligations for employing people from deprived backgrounds".[120] Others felt that such appeals to social conscience were unnecessary as there was a hard-nosed business case for employers to work with intermediaries to seek new channels of recruitment— "it is difficult to find good quality people".[121] The Minister agreed that in the context of New Deal "we have moved beyond the early days when a lot of employers signed up because it was an expression of altruism. This is about hard-nosed competitiveness, about recruitment in a tight labour market and making sure that your business benefits from what is at the moment an untapped pool of talent".[122] What is particularly noteworthy is that the vast majority if not all of our witnesses agreed that improving the links between employers with vacancies and unemployed job seekers with the skills to fill those posts would not only benefit unemployed people but also employers. We recommend a strengthening in the role of employers in the development and management of labour market intermediation at the local level. This could involve the expansion of the role of New Deal partnerships or an increased role for Employers' Coalitions.

111  Informal visit to the United States. Back

112  Ev. p. 78. Back

113  Jobs for All, para 5.61. Back

114  Improving the Employment Prospects of Low Income Job Seekers: Case Studies, p. 2. Back

115  Jobs for All, page 96. Back

116  Appendix 6, Ev. p. 124. Back

117  Appendix 11, Ev. p. 153. Back

118  Q. 150. Back

119  Ev. p. 7. Back

120  Appendix 24, Ev. p. 190. Back

121  Q. 150. Back

122  Q. 303. Back

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Prepared 7 February 2001