HR chiefs challenge employers to help long-term unemployed

HR chiefs from McDonald’s and Morrisons – both renowned recruiters of the long-term unemployed – have challenged employers to do more to help the growing number of people out of work for months on end.

Employers should “do the right thing” and create more work experience placements for the long-term jobless, according to David Fairhurst, chief people officer at the fast-food giant.

Firms should also consider recruiting from the long-term unemployed where they have jobs available, as it delivers direct business benefits, Morrisons’ group HR director Norman Pickavance has said.

Their comments come as Office for National Statistics data revealed the number of long-term unemployed people has shot up to the highest level in more than a decade – to 663,000 in the three months to December 2009.

Overall, unemployment fell by 3,000 to 2.46 million, but the number of people that want to work but cannot find a job – classed as economically inactive – rose by 10.6% over the year to 2.3 million.

Fairhurst told Personnel Today: “Employers should focus on employability rather than employment – for example, offering work experience as a long-term investment in the next generation.

“Worklessness is not good for the economy. There is a danger that some of the next generation coming through will be an unemployable group of people, adding to the skills deficit in the country.”

Years to recovery?

The sharp spike in part-time working during the recession indicates it could take the labour market “several years” to fully recover, despite dropping unemployment levels, experts warned.

Official figures revealed the number of people working part-time in the three months to December rose by 25,000 to 7.69 million, while those in part-time jobs (because they could not secure full-time employment) rocketed to 1.04 million – up 34.9% on the previous year.

Nigel Meager, director of the Institute of Employment Studies, told Personnel Today: “We could be in this situation for several years, with significant numbers of people struggling to get into the labour market and taking [part-time jobs] that for them are not the optimal choice.”

Since February last year, McDonald’s has taken on 300 people through the Local Employment Partnership (LEP) scheme, whereby Jobcentre Plus works with employers to match long-term unemployed people into roles.

Morrisons has recruited 4,000 people through the LEP scheme since January 2009 and plans to take on many thousands more this year, Pickavance said.

“There is a huge value for doing this in our company,” he said, adding that many of the recruits stayed on to become shop managers.

“I would encourage other employers who aren’t doing this [using LEPs] to look more deeply at the kind of business they are trying to build. Investing in staff from an early age grows commitment and loyalty – a huge business benefit.”

Business in the Community, which launched a government-backed campaign last year to create work placements, apprenticeships or jobs for young people, reiterated the vital role employers can play.

Catherine Sermon, national community impact director, said: “The key role for employers is to look at how they can help people who are looking for work to be relevant and work-ready.”

Sermon cited work experience, mentoring schemes and help with CV writing and interview techniques as valuable measures of support.

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