Select Committee on Work and Pensions Third Report


The Government's Green Paper "Towards Full Employment" and the White Paper "Opportunities for All" identify key roles for the Employment Service/Jobcentre Plus, Learning and Skills Councils, Regional Development Agencies and others to work together to achieve the goal of full employment for all. Jobcentre Plus and its Pathfinder Districts have been tasked with developing a robust local employer engagement strategy in consultation with its partners.

An effective employer engagement strategy must be developed within the context of Jobcentre Plus and build on what employer activity is already taking place. If this strategy is to succeed it must be more "demand­led", with service to employers at the very centre. By its very nature, a demand­led approach engages employers in the design and delivery of recruitment and pre­employment training measures, and uses their experience of hiring personnel to define programme requirements and assess the basic standard of job­readiness.

Birmingham and Solihull has many past, current and emerging examples of successful collaborations and forged partnerships with key employers and developers, some of which are illustrated.

Birmingham and Solihull District Working in Partnership with Key Stakeholders

The District has and is playing a leading role in partnership working with key stakeholders for public, community and commercial gains. These include the establishment of a Birmingham Employer Coalition, and developing a sectorised employer engagement strategy along the lines of the "Business on Board" New Deal Task Force recommendations.

Services have been developed to support several major recruitment exercises, including the development of Touchwood, Solihull Town Centre, and the new Bull Ring, Birmingham City Centre. Other projects include GAP, Rover, Birmingham International Airport, Dunlop and Breed Steering. Many of these projects have involved setting up Job Shops on employer premises to help with their recruitment and redundancy issues. In the case of Rover alone the District provided assistance for over 1,000 of their affected employees.

Birmingham Employer Coalition

The Birmingham Coalition is one of 10 coalitions established in most conurbations around the country, and is part of, and answerable to, the National Employment Panel (previously the New Deal Task Force). The Birmingham Employer Coalition has been established for around four years, having originally been a local New Deal employer forum.

The original role of the Coalition was to act as a "friendly critic" of New Deal and other Governmental employment programmes, making sure that what the New Deal partnership was delivering was meeting the needs of local employers.

The Birmingham Employer Coalition is chaired by Mike Beasley, Managing Director of Jaguar Cars, with Paul Toomer, a secondee from Jobcentre Plus filling the role of Coalition Director. Membership covers engineering, manufacturing, the police, the Local Authority, IT, hospitality, printing and the voluntary sector.

The key operational objectives for the Birmingham Employer Coalition for 2002-03 are supporting Jobcentre Plus to implement the key recommendations of "Business on Board", assisting in the design and delivery of "Ambition Sector Initiatives" (as described in Section 2 of Business on Board), increasing access and outcomes for disadvantaged clients (particularly ethnic minority clients) and reviewing membership of the Coalition to ensure appropriate representation.

The Birmingham Employer Coalition is currently supporting a number of projects. These include an engineering industry recruitment project ­ funded by the New Deal Innovation Fund, a small ­ medium enterprise recruitment project, close working with the Scarman Trust ­ to help medium enterprise clients currently outside the social welfare system, and an ethnic minority recruitment project to match job­ready clients to vacancies within blue­chip companies.

Business Development Managers (Local Account Managers)

One of the most effective ways of engaging employers at a local level is through a sector strategy which is demand­led. Within the District we have established a small team of sector­specific Business Development Managers (or Local Account Managers). These mangers work closely with employers, delivery partners, Jobcentre Plus managers and staff to satisfy employer and business needs for the recruitment of suitable workers, through demand­led approaches, facilitating the development of customised training routeways, where appropriate.

Since its formation in September 2001, the Business Development Team aims to provide a high quality, professional account management service at local level that strengthens employer participation in the New Deal: Next Phase and increases the number of opportunities and successful job outcomes for our most disadvantaged clients.

City Strategic Partnership

Local Strategic Partnerships are being set up around the country. For those areas that receive Neighbourhood Renewal Fund allocations, like Birmingham, the Local Strategic Partnerships must show that they are working with an effective partnership to qualify for the money in the next two years. In Birmingham & Solihull (who have not yet set up Local Strategic Partnerships) a core group has been established, and referred to as the City Strategic Partnership. This has representatives from 12 key agencies/sectors, including the District Manager for Jobcentre Plus.

The aim of the partnership is to bring together at a local level (ie within the local authority boundary) the key public services with representatives of the business, voluntary and community sectors to improve local services, particularly in deprived neighbourhoods.

The City Strategic Partnership has the responsibility of producing the long term vision for the area (the Community Strategy); directing Neighbourhood Renewal Grant to achieve improvements in employment, health, housing and environment, education and crime; developing Public Service Agreements; and co­ordinating the work of other partnerships.

The City Strategic Partnership is developing relationships with other city­wide strategic

partnerships that have specific responsibilities such as Lifelong Learning or Economic Development; and will also relate to a network of more local partnerships across the city. The shape and membership of these area based partnerships have still to be agreed, and will be influenced by the outcome of the City Council's consultation on local decision making structures.

In addition to the city­wide and local partnerships, the City Strategic Partnership has begun work to engage business interests; and the community and voluntary sectors. The latter work is being led by Birmingham Voluntary Services Council on behalf of the City Strategic Partnership, and will focus on setting up a Community Network and the using of the Community Empowerment Fund to support active participation in the work of the City Strategic Partnership.

Employment and Training Strategic Partnership

Reporting to the City Strategic Partnership, the Employment and Training Strategy Group has been formed to further the employment, skills and learning objectives of Birmingham & Solihull. Its objectives are aligned to that of the Framework for Regional Employment & Skills action, as developed by the Regional Development Agency.

Chaired by the Executive Director of the local Learning and Skills Council, and with Jobcentre Plus District Manager representation, the group meets monthly. Other key representatives include Directors of Economic Development for both Birmingham and Solihull Local Authorities, the Chamber of Commerce, the Voluntary Sector Forum and lead private sector delivery partners, Pertemps and Reed plc.

The aim of the group is to close the equalities gap in employment, skills and learning attainment for ethnic minorities and other disadvantaged groups. Inter­agency co­operation and actions to develop sector strategies, cultivate inward investment opportunities, workforce development and planning, area and community regeneration and overcoming barriers to employment and training.

Welfare to Work Operational Management Group

The Birmingham Welfare to Work Operational Management Group, is a newly established strategic partnership group reporting to the Employment and Training Strategy Group. Its purpose is to oversee the implementation of Welfare to Work in Birmingham, ensuring that the work of partners is co­ordinated towards successful implementation of all the initiatives within the Welfare to Work Programme. Our aim is to make sure that people who are able to work but not currently working are appropriately targeted and fully supported in moving into and maintaining permanent employment. There is also a Solihull Welfare to Work Strategic Partnership Group chaired by Jobcentre Plus.

Employment and Training Strategy Group lead on demand strategies to deal with employer recruitment in Birmingham. This forum is the primary vehicle for co­ordinating and planning the arrangements for delivery of Welfare to Work across Birmingham and Solihull, including the implementation of New Deal: Next Phase and the partnership working arrangements to be established by the Jobcentre Plus.

The group has three prime areas of work to fulfil. These are Planning of good quality, accessible and fully co­ordinated Welfare to Work initiatives, effective Performance Management of initiatives within the Welfare to Work Programme, and efficient and timely Communication with partners at all levels within and between partner organisations.

Access to Employment Groups

Jobcentre Plus is leading the development of Access to Employment Groups within Birmingham. These are designed to be the local joint planning and co­ordination forums through which the Employment Strategy Group will seek to develop effective and seamless employment support and progression services which are responsive to 'supply side' issues and the specific needs of unemployed people in key target communities.

Activity is focussed on PSA Target Regeneration Areas and key wards with highest unemployment and include: Handsworth/SRB6 (Handsworth/Soho wards); North Aston (Aston ward and neighbouring areas); South East Birmingham (Sparkbrook and Sparkhill wards); Nechells/Heartlands (Nechells, Washwood Heath & Small Heath wards); South West/Outer Estates (Kings Norton and West Northfield); and Central (Ladywood and Edgbaston wards).

Aims and Membership

Through the improved local co­ordination Access to Employment Groups ­ whose membership mirrors the Employment Strategy Group ­ we will seek to collectively deliver services which have a significant and lasting impact on the progression into employment of individuals, and which secure over time reductions in differential unemployment rates in key communities. A central element of Access To Employment Groups membership will be local community (and other) organisations with a clear service delivery role. Local providers will therefore be key participants, as will relationships and linkages with other local (planning) forums, including City Council Constituency Strategic Partnerships and Ward Advisory Boards, Local Area Inclusion Partnerships, Regeneration Zones/Area Boards and their thematic groups.

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Prepared 31 July 2002