From education to employment

Steps To Work tackling rising unemployment rates, transforming the lives of communities in Walsall

Walsall hit the front pages a year ago for all the wrong reasons, following a report from
Birmingham Live in April 2022 revealed an increase in criminal activity, but a Walsall-based charity is working hard to change that. 

Last year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) discovered that Walsall’s unemployment rate of 5.6 percent is 1.7 percent higher than the unemployment rate for England (3.9 percent).[1]Statistics also revealed that those claiming unemployment benefits, including Universal Credit increased from 9,450 in November 2022, to 9,545 claimants in December 2022. 

The Annual Population Survey for 2021 reported that over 49 percent of the Walsall working-age population have at least two A-levels (or equivalent), and 10 percent have no qualifications, adding another barrier to employment. 

One charity that is tackling this issue at its core by helping local people, many of whom face multiple barriers, find sustainable, rewarding, and meaningful jobs, is employment support specialists, StepsToWork (STW). 

Over the last five years, STW has supported over 47,983 local unemployed residents across the West Midlands to build their confidence, gain new skills, face their challenges, and ultimately obtain secure employment and financial stability. Services it offers include CV writing support and guidance, job search support and interview preparation. 

STW’s sister organisation and responsible recruitment specialists, Starting Point Recruitment (SPR) provides support to a range of Walsall residents. It has successfully delivered monthly ‘Motivate Your Mind’ workshops to unemployed female residents of Walsall. 

‘Motivate Your Mind’ comprises four face-to-face/virtual workshops on various aspects of mental health, delivered by STW and SPR in collaboration with Walsall for All and the Department for Work and Pensions. One workshop attendee was hired full-time on the JETS programme,a government-funded scheme launched in November 2020 to support those left jobless due to the COVID-19 pandemic, because of successful participation. 

Ayesha Rees, Chief Operating Officer of StepsToWork commented: 

‘’To break the cycle of poverty and crime in Walsall, we need to support people to gain valuable life skills that will enable them to get back into work. 

‘’We do not want people to be left behind, which is why we partner with a range of organisations across Walsall and support projects to deliver much needed employment services for those who need it most. 

‘’Social responsibility is integrated into everything we do, and we remain true to our community building approach. Last year, SPR announced another record-breaking year of charitable giving, gifting a total of £801,423 to employment support projects operating across Walsall and the Black Country; an increase of 32% on the previous year. 

‘’On top of the support we offer, last December we were proud to open a Community Hub in Pleckthat offers discounted food and employment support to local people who are struggling. We understand the pressures many people are facing, and with high unemployment rates and food costs continuing to soar, we want to give back to the most disadvantaged in whatever way we can.’’ 

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