Select Committee on Education and Employment Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Hartlepool Borough Council, Economic Development


  The council has developed, co-ordinated and delivered a number of initiatives aimed at assisting both local employers and residents to match vacancies and individuals. Evidence and recommendations from these initiatives are outlined below.

  Our experience in Hartlepool is that there is a need for local areas to have the flexibility to design and implement programmes that respond to identified local needs. Hartlepool Borough Council has a proven track record of working in partnership and acting as a lead body in bringing together private, public and voluntary organisations to work in the best interest of local residents and businesses. The local authority has had a co-ordinating role in relation to SRB schemes, European funding and a network of employment outreach centres. This expertise is crucial in the development and delivery of initiatives that link employers with the unemployed. Local Authorities are uniquely placed to explore the use of sector based intermediaries and indeed in some areas may be the only organisation in a position to take on this role.

  The Hartlepool travel to work area has the highest unemployment rates in the country and having designed and delivered a number of initiatives aimed at assisting the recruitment of the unemployed, we would very much welcome the opportunity to participate in further explorations into intermediaries.


Inward Investor Support

  A full package of support is offered to investors thinking of coming to Hartlepool from both the business development and local initiatives teams. This provides a range of support to new and expanding investors, from grants and relocation support as well as including support from the Targeted Training, Opportunities for Women and Jobs Build projects to recruit and train local residents. This adds value to the support available and makes clear linkages between the supply and demand of labour.

Targeted Training and Opportunities for Women Projects

  Targeted Training has over the last three years endeavoured to bridge the gap between employers and the unemployed by consulting with employers, employment agencies, training providers and voluntary sector organisations in the design of short courses which link the unemployed to local employment opportunities.

  Working closely with the business development team, the project is able to gain direct contact with employers who may be expanding or establishing a new business in the area. The project has worked with major companies in the town who have faced problems with recruitment and has designed courses to enable unemployed residents to gain up to date certificates relevant to the vacancies highlighted by these companies.

  The project has assisted several companies in breaking down these barriers by arranging company visits, "better off" calculations based on the pay rate offered and first stage interviews. In one such instance, 37 unemployed residents attended the pre recruitment courses, with a total of 18 securing employment within the company and a further three securing employment elsewhere.

  The Opportunities for Women project works alongside Targeted Training and works with local employers to assist women to return to the labour market.

Jobsbuild Project

  This project has successfully facilitated partnerships with local businesses and offers incentives and support to train and recruit the unemployed, including offering subsidies to cover the costs of training new recruits to enable them to get up to speed. The project also co-ordinates a network of outreach employment centres which are voluntary sector run and community based. This grassroots work enables the local authority to identify recruitment and training issues and to use this to inform the design and delivery of our support initiatives. Working in partnership, Jobsbuild, Targeted Training, Opportunities for Women and local employers are able to deliver pre recruitment courses targeting the unemployed with vocational courses. Evidence from these projects has found that a package of support offered to employers, including training and financial incentives, can help to influence employers' recruitment policies.


  The Local Authority is also involved in the Tees North 25+ Pilot Partnership Steering Group and delivers the Families into Work and Intermediate Labour Market (ILM) projects as part of this pilot. Evidence from working with the long term unemployed on both projects has highlighted:

  The importance of employee status whilst on the ILM project. This avoids clients perceiving this initiative as another "scheme".

  The need for intensive one to one and group work with these clients, particularly in relation to social or "soft" skills.

  Whilst vocational skills can be developed through short certificate courses and NVQs, the more generic skills essential for securing and retaining work are proving more challenging to develop, eg time keeping, flexibility, motivation, personal responsibility, communication skills, confidence and self esteem as well as taking long term perspectives and having the determination to "stick things out".

  Moreover, our contact with local employers, particularly in relation to unskilled/semi skilled work, has demonstrated that whilst subsidies, financial incentives and pre recruitment vocational training can help to influence employers' recruitment decisions, the majority are looking for candidates that possess and can demonstrate the above social/soft skills.

  It is intended that this evidence will be used to inform the development of our ILM project and a series of workshops will be developed and monitored. It is hoped these workshops will encourage clients to develop a more positive attitude, raise self esteem and ensure they are aware of personal responsibility whilst in employment.

  In addition, our experience of working on the Tees North New Deal Pilot has provided an insight, and developed our understanding, of the structural barriers facing the unemployed. For example, evidence from both the ILM and Families into Work projects is indicating that where employers are willing to consider applications from unemployed people, and local initiatives have supported people to reach the point at which they can apply for these jobs; issues of "better offness" in work can influence their decisions to take employment.


  It is our experience that amongst the long term unemployed, employment agencies are not particularly playing an increasingly important role in unemployed people's job search. They are still seen as providing temporary and insecure work which if taken can risk jeopardising their benefits.

  However, we feel Employment Agencies can offer opportunities to the unemployed but that further exploration is needed to bridge this gap and reduce the risks of making the transition from benefits to work.

Hartlepool Borough Council, Economic Development

March 2000

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