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Working with people, not percentages

Posted on 22 January 2016

I will never forget the day I got my first job.

I was 17, just about to start college and had made the decision to get part time work.  

I was so excited when I got the phone call – who knew that the excitement of selling shoes would fill a teenager with such glee? It was such a great feeling – what’s better than someone telling you that you amount to something, they want to work with you – you have a JOB! I wish I could bottle it up that feeling and sell it.

If the latest employment figures are anything to go by then many people have been receiving similar phone calls over the past year.  Statistics show that employment has risen to 74% with a record 31.4 million people now in work across the UK - growth that is counter-balancing public spending cuts and major redundancies that are affecting people across the country, such as recent announcements by Tata Steel resulting in more than 1000 jobs lost.

Learning from the past

It’s a strong figure - a statistic that tells over 34 million good news stories across the country. But here’s the rub - how do we provide support those people who are still economically active but remain unemployed and likely face the greatest barriers to work?  

As much as statistics suggest the lowest rate of unemployment since 2006, I think questions remain as to why some jobseekers are still struggling with the current system and how it can be remodelled to give that individual as much opportunity as possible to succeed.

My hope as we await details of the government’s ‘Work and Health’ programme is that the rhetoric around focusing on the needs of the individual as a person and not a statistic translates into funding and a programme designed to make the best possible use of the skills and expertise from all areas of the employment sector. 

In late 2015, Groundwork issued a report entitled ‘What is a working £ife worth?’, a comprehensive look at how the outsourcing of welfare to work programmes – and how previous approaches tested the ability of many voluntary sector organisations to engage with them, many of whom have been at the forefront of delivering support for the unemployed for many years. 

One size does not fit all

Groundwork has been working with people furthest removed from the jobs market for over thirty years and, in our experience, one size does not fit all. People need practical advice, meaningful support, encouragement and training that gives a person a genuine shot at getting a job.   

People like Liam, who left school with an uncertain future and was told by one of his teachers that he wouldn’t ‘amount to anything’. He volunteered with Groundwork’s Green Team where he has gained practical horticultural skills - and now has a job in grounds maintenance.  Harry also joined his local Green Team as a volunteer and has been working hard to gain the confidence and skills needed to get employment, in turn making his Grandad is proud that he is ‘earning and learning’.

It’s an approach that works – focus on a person’s potential not the percentages and the possibilities are endless. 

Watch Liam's story:

Post by Stacey Aplin, PR and Communications Officer

Groundwork UK