Centrica calls on long-term unemployed to fill skills gap

Energy and services giant Centrica has improved its customer care and met
skills shortages through a scheme helping disadvantaged and long-term
unemployed people into work.

Working in partnership with Jobcentre Plus, the business runs work-preparation
training courses at 10 of its sites around the country to help the unemployed
into positions where it has particular recruitment difficulties.

People from a variety of groups, such as lone-parents, New Deal candidates,
carers and the disabled, are taught interview and computer skills on the
one-week courses.

At the end of the courses, trainees are interviewed for positions at
Centrica-owned British Gas or the AA with around 45 per cent gaining a job.

Wendela Currie, group HR diversity manager at Centrica, said the scheme was
very successful, with 180 staff recruited through the programme so far, mainly
for call centre work.

She said the programme allowed Centrica to recruit people that its customers
can relate to and brings new sets of life skills into the centres.

"It’s important that our employee base understand our customer base and
needs," she said. "It’s important we have people with the same
experiences."

She said having access to people the company would not normally have recruited
had "added to the team environment".

British Gas HR director Alf Turner said: "There are significant
advantages. It helps us reflect our customer base and expands our recruiting
pool.

"But it’s also about being a good employer, helping people and being
philanthropic."

Turner said British Gas plans to extend the scheme from call centres to
engineers. He estimates the company needs to recruit 5,000 engineers to
replenish its ageing workforce.

By Quentin Reade

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