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Work Programme can have a positive impact on employment

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Data published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) last week suggests that the Government’s flagship welfare-to-work scheme, the Work Programme, has had a positive effect on the long-term unemployed.

The concept behind the initiative is that payments for training are based on the results achieved, with providers being paid from the benefits saved when participants find work, thereby saving taxpayers’ money.

The latest figures show that 48% of people who joined the Programme at its launch in June 2011 had a break in benefit claims by the end of 9 months and almost a quarter had stopped claiming benefits for at least 3 months.

These statistics are encouraging, especially after a National Audit Office (NAO) report earlier this year indicated that only 15% of over-25s would get jobs through the Work Programme in contrast to the official government estimate of 40%. At the time, concern was raised that attainment targets had been set too high, stifling the potential of the programme.

At NCFE, we’re pleased to see the Programme come through the initial teething problems and achieve its targets. With youth unemployment at its highest rate since figures began in 1992, it’s refreshing to hear some positive news on the issue – around 17,000 18 to 24 year olds started in a job since the launch of the Youth Contract in April.

NCFE works closely with a number of training providers who are working innovatively to make the Work Programme a success and lead learners into employment. For example, we’ve seen a high take-up of NCFE’s range of fundable individual units to support unemployed adult learners back into work. The stand-alone unit in ‘Job Application Skills’ is proving to be a particularly popular and relevant choice.

We’re also helping colleges to develop into focused and effective recruitment centres for local businesses, through our REED NCFE initiative. This partnership responds to robust research and aims to equip students with the mindset to enter the workplace and secure a job within the hidden labour market. Since the launch of the initiative at Bournemouth and Poole College in January, we have been delighted to see hundreds of learners placed in employment at the end of their courses.

The Work Programme is committed to finding solutions that address the problem of unemployment and this is a principle that we’re passionate about at NCFE. We’ll continue to support the Programme through our ‘Pathways to Employability’ portfolio of qualifications, equipping learners for the competitive labour market with qualifications such as Learning to Learn, Employability Skills and Enterprise Skills.

David Grailey is chief executive of NCFE, the training provider

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