Employability providers short of thousands of roles

Elizabeth Taylor is chief executive of the Employment Related Services Association

The UK will struggle to fill thousands of roles in the employability sector as the government moves forward with its Plan for Jobs, according to the leader of its industry body.

Elizabeth Taylor, CEO of the Employment Related Services Association, said the sector was gearing up for the busiest time in its history, but suffered from being a “hidden” industry when it came to attracting and recruiting staff.

The government’s Restart programme, launched last November, aims to provide support to more than one million workers who have been made redundant because the pandemic over the course of three years.

However, on top of the 27,000 work coaches it plans to recruit for Jobcentre Plus branches, employability providers will need to recruit about 20,000 additional roles to support Restart and other employability programmes during that time.

Taylor told Personnel Today there would be a variety of roles available in addition to frontline advisers who help applicants with CVs and covering letters.

“The organisations that have won employability contracts need commercial managers, performance managers, people who can manage stakeholder relationships and handle referrals,” she said. “Then you have employer engagement roles – people who will go out into the community looking for local vacancies and talking to local businesses.”

Frontline advisers would need a range of skills including communication, the ability to build trust, and a knack for forming relationships, she added.

“It’s not just about making sure someone’s CV is right for the role, there is a lot of motivation involved. You might be trying to persuade someone it is safe to go to work, helping them to sort out their domestic circumstances and childcare,” said Taylor. “Our sector has helped people manage a transition back to work before but not after a pandemic.”

The sector is reaching out to staff who may have been displaced by industries such as hospitality and airline as these are public-facing roles where skills are likely to be transferable.

Our sector has helped people manage a transition back to work before, but not after a pandemic” – Elizabeth Taylor, Employment Related Services Association

One example is Jayne Garner, head of delivery for employability provider Ingeus, who used to work in recruitment but felt her skills could be put to better use. She became a frontline employability adviser working with long-term unemployed people and now manages a team of 120 people.

Garner said: “I didn’t appreciate the opportunities that were open to me within the employability sector, but when I did, I made the decision to take the plunge and not regret something I hadn’t done. It was the best decision I ever made, and today I embrace the challenges that each day brings me.

“At the end of every day, I know my efforts have made that difference and that my day-to-day is worthwhile.”

For people interested in working in the employability sector, they will receive extensive training in skills such as telephone communications, interviewing over Zoom and how to advise remotely, said Taylor.

Providers will also be supporting specific sectors such as social care and logistics, and bespoke training will be provided to advisers in these sectors.

Taylor added: “We’re ready to onboard and recruit staff. At the end of this people will have great transferable skills. We won’t be in pandemic recovery forever, but you’ll have these skills to take elsewhere.”

“It’s a target and performance-driven environment, but it’s such a pleasure to get results because you’re transforming people’s lives. This is about getting people into the right roles rather than a quick fix – this could be the beginning of a long career.”

A list of Restart vacancies advertised by ERSA members can be found here.

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