Memorandum from Business Services Association
1. The Business Services Association represents
major companies providing outsourced services to companies, public
bodies, local authorities and government departments and agencies.
The combined turnover in the United Kingdom of its 16 member companies
is around £10 billion. Member companies employ directly and
indirectly in excess of 350,000 people, many of them at blue-collar
2. BSA members are committed to delivering
high-quality services to their customers. They are also firmly
committed to training and advancing their employees, and have
sought to work with Government since the beginning of the New
Deal initiative to promote these ideals.
3. BSA publicly endorsed the New Deal in
August 1997, and submitted a paper to the Select Committee in
October 1997 expressing its initial thoughts on how the scheme
might be given the best chance of success. Further evidence was
submitted to the Committee in March 1999, outlining some thoughts
on ways in which employers might be more effectively involved
in the early stages of the New Deal process alongside the ES,
and in November 1999, concerning geographic and economic factors
influencing the "jobs gap".
4. Previous evidence from the BSA to the
Select Committee has highlighted the problems of matching supply
and demand in some areas, such as Gatwick Airport, Aldershot and
the East Midlands. The experience of BSA member companies here
and elsewhere indicates clearly that there is a genuine problem
in matching supply and demand at local level, and that geographic
considerations play a significant part in this. Unless ways can
be found to alleviate the economic and social pressures which
restrict the mobility of the labour force, this is unlikely to
5. Aside from the geographical issues already
considered, two main areas need to be addressed if employers are
to be able to assist job-seekers into long-term employment:
(i) the job-readiness of candidates;
(ii) the ability of the ES to place candidates
6. Whilst it is undoubtedly true that many
employers will prefer to recruit their staff from those currently
or recently in employment, the primary need is for people who
are both available and capable of doing the job. As employers
we look for prospective employees who, even if they do not posses
the specialist skills required, are willing and able to learn.
7. The latest developments of the New Deal
programme, notably the improvements in the "gateway"
stage, have gone some way to address the problems employers had
previously experienced with the New Deal. We welcome the announcement
of the "Intensive Gateway" as a period in which job-seeking
skills can be developed, and the move away from more generalised
academic and other training courses. Those who have been unemployed
for some time are likely to benefit from focused preparation in
interview techniques and the disciplines of workthe so-called
"soft skills" which are essential in building a successful
8. We believe that these aims can be achieved
most effectively in an intensive gateway period of two to three
weeks, after which specific skills training can be undertaken
within the workplace. BSA member companies, like many others,
already have well-established training schemes for their employees,
and these have proved to be an efficient and cost-effective way
of addressing skills shortages in the workforce.
9. It is natural that many employers would
prefer to take on staff who have already demonstrated their ability
to hold down a job, but most are also keen to overcome barriers
against the previously unemployed. In particular, we would commend
the schemes such as that involving the ES and Nissan, in which
New Deal candidates undergo Gateway training within the company,
as an effective way of breaking down prejudices on both sides.
10. As an Association, we have advocated
just such a scheme within our industry sector, which employs large
numbers of staff at blue-collar level, and have worked with the
ES for some time in an attempt to establish this. However, we
have experienced considerable levels of frustration in this attempt,
due in part to the staff turnover levels within the ES itself,
which have prevented the necessary ongoing relationships from
developing between ES and employers.
11. There is also a need for a more consistent
awareness among ES and JobCentre staff as a whole of the potential
for business to become involved in the process of placing candidates
in suitable jobs. Employers have much expertise to contribute,
and their participation needs to be actively encouraged. There
is potential here for the establishment of Public Private Partnership
arrangements, to the benefit of all sides.
12. BSA member companies report some concern
that the process of taking on staff under the New Deal is simply
too cumbersome to be cost-effective. The need is for staff who
can be available as soon as a vacancy appears, since companies
cannot afford to leave jobs unfilled when there are contracts
to be fulfilled.
13. This problem would be eased by the proposed
introduction of a shorter gateway period (see paragraph eight)
and an early entry into work, allowing a more rapid movement of
New Deal candidates through the placement process. There is also
a need for improved systems to identify and place the correct
candidates to fill the vacancies available.
14. Experience suggest that private recruitment
agencies, many of which focus specifically on one industry or
sector, are better able than the JobCentres to meet this need
effectively. Indeed, a number of BSA member companies operate
their own agencies to place staff within their various subsidiaries.
The business services sector is highly labour-intensive, and the
demand for staff is likely to be both immediate and varied.
15. As specialists within their market sectors,
employment agencies are experienced in matching candidates with
vacancies, and are generally able to act more speedily than the
more bureaucratic systems of the ES will allow. We welcome the
development of closer links between the two and believe that the
private sector has much to contribute in terms of developing more
effective processes and systems.
16. Much has been achieved to date through
the New Deal, but there are still many problems to be addressed.
Key areas remain:
(i) the problems posed by the mismatch between
vacancies and job-seekers;
(ii) a continuing lack of consistency of
approach within the ES;
(iii) insufficient involvement of business.
17. The BSA is and remains committed to
the concept of the New Deal, but time is running out and speedy
action is needed. We want it to succeed and are willing, as an
association and as individual employers, to work alongside the
ES and Job Centres to help it to do so. We want to help those
genuinely seeking employment and a career to fulfil their ambitions.
Business Services Association