From education to employment

Green paper sets out plans for employment partnerships and jobs pledge

It’s been a big week for announcements from the Government pertaining to work and skills. In addition to the much delayed Leitch implementation plan, “World class skills: implementing the Leitch Review of Skills in England”, the Department of Work and Pensions have published a green paper, promising employment partnerships and a “jobs pledge”.

Its hoped such measures will help a quarter of a million people on benefits into jobs. Building on the Local Employment Partnerships announced in the Budget earlier this year, major employers in both the public and private sectors have given a commitment to offer guaranteed job interviews for people who have been on benefit and who are ready and prepared to work.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Peter Hain said:

“Today’s reforms offer a step change in our approach ““ with new support matched by new responsibilities. Those facing particularly severe barriers to work will now get fast-tracked help. Others who have a history of long-term benefit dependency could face tougher responsibilities from the start of their claim. And our reforms will not just be about getting people into work, job retention and progression are the new standards against which the success of welfare policy will be judged.”

The employers that have committed to Local Employment Partnerships include ASDA, B&Q, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury, Tesco, Debenhams, DSGI, Birds Eye, Transport for London, Greggs, John Lewis, Primark, Wilkinsons, Gala Group, Intercontinetal Hotel Group, Wetherspoons, McDonalds, Whitbread, G4S, OCS, Reliance, Securitas, Standard Life, Somerset County Council, Network Rail, Vodaphone, Carillion, Centrica, City Facilities Management, Aviance, Servisair, SERCO, Travelodge, and Diageo.

An ALP spokesperson said:

“This green paper represents a further step in the right direction for the DWP. It contains a crucial recommendation that policy needs to move beyond just job placement for the unemployed to programmes that generate sustainable employment for the low skilled. This should result in better joined-up provision between Jobcentre Plus and the LSC.

“ALP is pleased that the new team of ministers at DWP has not signalled a change in direction for welfare reform. The ministers expect to see a major role for the private and voluntary sector providers in delivering the new programmes. At the same time, they have taken the sensible decision to consult further on the more contentious proposals in David Freud’s report which was published earlier this year.

“The DWP appears keen on advancing the Government’s Cities Strategy through these proposals. We have no objection to this in principle, but ALP feels that the Government has got to make up its mind on how to make the delivery structure simpler.

“But all in all, a very encouraging start for Peter Hain and his colleagues, and ALP looks forward to discussing the contents of the green paper with ministers and officials over the coming months. The proposals will provide a major focal point of our autumn conference in Newbury in late October.”

Lawrence Miles, chief executive of the IVA believes NEETs should be targetted:

“We have reared a nation of e-reclusives, adolescents and those in their twenties who only have virtual friends and e-experiences, for whom staying in is the new going out. This problem is hidden by the capacity of relatively affluent working and middle class parents who absorb the costs of supporting their offspring while they dream of unearned celebrity or fail to make a career choice. It is phenomena like this that creates the wasted talent, the untapped potential and unrealised ability referred to in the Jobs Pledge.

“The rise of the “Nice NEET” (Not in Employment, Education or Training and not being rowdy in High Street groups) is particularly insidious because the numbers grow without riot or civil commotion; they don”t even need a quick fix cash injection to cosmeticise unemployment figures. They are, however, a drain on our resources and deplete the necessary reserve of talent, ability and energy the UK needs.”

He feels the answer is to concentrate funding on small business:

“Stop giving Big Business so much of the money from the national training budget; they don”t need it, they train anyway and their recruitment levels will not be linked or driven by political pledges. Recognise that dynamic UK is small business: innovative, energetic, optimistic but with tight margins. A formula that could encourage smaller businesses to take on staff linked to the provision of quality training and re-skilling available locally via FE colleges and training providers is required. Lowering the compulsory school leaving age would probably help too as well as re-establishing the inevitability of work rather than having it as an option.”

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