EMPLOYER CASE STUDIES
Touchwood and Solihull Town Centre Partnership
In 1997, an Australian based property developer
Lend Lease, secured the contract to redevelop a previously owned
town centre civic car park site into a major retail and leisure
complex, known as Touchwood. The project, which opened its doors
to the public on 5th September 2001, effectively doubled overnight
the town's retail capacity, and elevated Solihull from 112th to
29th in the UK's ranking of top retailing destinations. The expansion
would bring over 90 new employers to the town centre and create
in excess of 2,300 new retail and leisure jobs nearly 1,000
of which were for the flagship John Lewis department store.
Working in Partnership
The Solihull Town Centre Partnership was established
in 1999 (out of the ashes of a former Retail Chamber of Trade)
in order to effectively rise and respond to the challenges that
Touchwood would present. Administered by the Town Centre Management
Group, the partnership has evolved and grown to over 40 current
member organisations (representing many more local businesses),
with a core management board including the Borough Council, key
employers, property management bodies and developers, Solihull
College and the Jobcentre Plus.
Jobcentre Plus is and has been at the very heart
of this Town Centre Partnership, working at all levels. The local
District Manager, Regional Director and Deputy Regional Director
have all played an active role in overseeing the strategic development
of the project and regularly participate in Partnership Board
and associated meetings.
This commitment by Jobcentre Plus senior management
led, during the Touchwood project's formation and development,
to the region supporting and resourcing the establishment of a
dedicated recruitment centre separate from the town's Jobcentre.
Firstly, to assist with the employment of over 800 construction
workers and, more recently, to manage and fill the over 2,000
retail, hospitality and leisure vacancies within the town.
In Spring 2001, the Jobcentre Plus recruitment team
worked alongside the John Lewis Partnership store's personnel
team to coordinate, prescreen and initially interview
applicants for their 1,000 vacancies. Over 7,000 application packs
were issued to jobseekers, with nearly 4,500 returned, processed,
interviewed and rejected/recommended to the employer for final
interview. This was an amazing achievement by the local team.
In March 2001, Jobcentre Plus seconded a fulltime
Recruitment Manager to the project to engage new employers moving
into Touchwood, provide direct assistance to the Partnership Board
and various local support agencies to identify and overcome potential
barriers to employment for unemployed people (eg. transportation,
training, childcare, etc.).
In the crucial 6month period prior to Touchwood
opening, Jobcentre Plus successfully managed to market, engage
and secure the vacancy handling business from over 60 new employers
to the town, resulting in servicing over 2,000 vacancies. Results
show Jobcentre Plus can be reliably accredited in filling over
1,000 of Touchwood's retail, leisure and hospitality vacancies,
766 of which were with unemployed people, and 18.5% of these are
people from ethnic minority backgrounds.
An integral feature of the Touchwood development
as part of the centre's management suite is an innovative
'rooftop' community, employment and learning area, for which
Jobcentre Plus was invited to become a key stakeholder. Labelled
'Learning & Job Shop@The Hub' it is the developer's vision
to put something back into the community and "to create a
centre of excellence for local learning, training and recruitment
which becomes a benchmark model for all UK communities."
This facility became operational last September and provides a
permanent base for the outstationed recruitment team enabling
the central handling of all town centre job vacancies, jobseeker
registrations, matching and employer marketing.
Over 420 unemployed people have so far been recruited
into vacancies by this team.
The New Bull Ring, Birmingham
The Touchwood recruitment 'model' is now regarded
as an exemplar of its kind, and is currently being adopted by
the developers of the new Bull Ring development, which opens in
Birmingham city centre in September 2003.
The new Bull Ring, currently under construction,
forms the keystone development for one of the largest regeneration
zone projects in Europe known as Birmingham's Eastside.
Covering 1.2million sq.ft. of prime site retail space the development
will position Birmingham as a market leader for retailing in the
UK. With over 8,000 potential vacancies 2,000 of which
will be for the flagship stores of Selfridges and Debenhams
this presents an even greater challenge for Jobcentre Plus and
its partners over the coming months.
Negotiations are currently at an advanced stage with
Hammersons, the developers of the new Bull Ring, to engage them
with a partnership recruitment and training package to recommend
to their tenants. In return, Hammersons are enabling the partnership
to establish a 'Learning and Recruitment Shop' to be sited in
the landmark Birmingham Rotunda building, located adjacent to
the new development.
The city council economic development teams, the
local Learning and Skills Council, Jobcentre Plus and its contracted
local delivery partners form the core partnership team.
Both Touchwood and the new Bull Ring partnership
project encapsulate the very essence of public/private partnership
working at strategic and practical levels for commercial and community
The case studies illustrate some of the key ways
in how Jobcentre Plus within Birmingham and Solihullhas
and is playing a vital, 'valueadded' role in strengthening
partnership working arrangements, while at the same time supporting
its own core business objectives and DWP values.
The GAP/Jobcentre Plus Birmingham Partnership
The partnership with GAP was formed to support the
company's expanding business within the UK and also with a view
to helping New Deal and other disadvantaged jobseekers train and
prepare for jobs in the company. GAP have strong corporate values
around diversity and equal opportunities and they are keen that
their partnership with Jobcentre Plus helps them to create a workforce
that reflects the diversity of the local labour markets in which
they operate. To this end they have decided that Jobcentre Plus
should handle their recruitment for new stores and ongoing
recruitment through a Service Level Agreement. The company currently
employ 6,000 people in the UK and this figure is expected to double
over the next five years.
The Birmingham initiative was set up to support GAP's
recruitment for their new flagship store in Birmingham (which
opened on 2nd November). Its aims were to ringfence up to twenty
vacancies for disadvantaged jobseekers (mainly New Deal groups/lone
parents/returners/disabled people) who would be supported through
tailored job preparation training delivered jointly by a Jobcentre
Plus approved local training provider and GAP. The training would
focus on excellent customer service skills and basic management
development training, two of the key features proposed for the
Of the twenty jobseekers who started the training
programme, twelve completed it and ten have been offered jobs
with GAP. All parties agree that the initiative is an excellent
example of a collaborative partnership between an employer (GAP),
Jobcentre Plus and a local Training Provider (Biscom Training).
It delivers an innovative, tailored routeway that has helped ten
disadvantaged jobseekers mainly from New Deal and lone parent
backgrounds, finds jobs in the new store. In addition to the New
Deal job starts. Eight jobseekers with disabilities were also
helped into jobs with the company through strong links developed
between GAP and the local Jobcentre Plus Disability Team. Jobcentre
Plus also helped GAP fill the remainder of their 150 vacancies
through supporting the company's recruitment open days.
Key Factors Contributing to Success
The majority of the trainees who completed the four
week programme were severely disadvantaged and had major barriers
to overcome to become "jobready". The training
therefore focussed strongly on life planning skills and included
a great deal of onetoone mentoring and coaching to
help build self confidence and improve selfesteem. The vocational
training took place in a GAP store; weeks 3 and 4 were led by
GAP. This training centred on building excellent customer service
skills and gave trainees an introduction to basic management skills
for retail. GAP modified their normal recruitment assessment process
so they could observe and assess trainees during the onthejob
element, thus helping to reduce the stress of facing an interview
/assessment at the end of the programme.
To support trainees in preparing for work, Jobseekers
Grants were made available to help them purchase new clothes for
the onthejob training. GAP provided a 30% discount
on their own clothes to help trainees maximise their Grants. The
Jobcentre Plus Lone Parent Advisers were also on hand throughout
the programme to advise on inwork tax credits and benefits.
Lone parents and returners in particular found this advice invaluable
in helping them make an appropriate choice about the number of
hours they could work.
During the programme, the Training Provider arranged
for the local branch of Boots to give makeovers and advice to
the trainees on personal presentation for retail sector careers
which all trainees enjoyed and found beneficial.
GAP will also provide a structured "aftercare"
process for the ten trainees recruited through this initiative
to help them cope with the transition into work and ensure that
they settle into their jobs and are given opportunities to progress
in their careers. This will include further mentoring and coaching
and formal reviews at regular intervals in the first few months
Summary of Outcomes Achieved
Ten of the twelve participants who completed the
programme have been offered jobs with GAP: six of these were New
Deal Lone Parents, three were from the New Deal 1824 group
and one was over 25 on short jobfocussed training. Eight
jobseekers with a disability were also offered jobs with the company.
GAP has agreed to roll out this initiative nationally.
The next pilot will be delivered in Swansea in the
early part of 2002. GAP will enter into a Service Level Agreement
with Jobcentre Plus to support all of its recruitment for new
stores and ongoing recruitment.