Employment minister sees Local Employment Partnerships as answer to creating a more diverse workforce

EXCLUSIVE

Companies looking to boost the numbers of black and minority ethnic (BME) staff they employ should sign up to a Local Employment Partnership (LEP), according to the employment minister.

Speaking exclusively to Personnel Today, Stephen Timms said the scheme, which offers job opportunities to the long-term unemployed, was the answer to improving workplace diversity. He urged HR professionals to convince their chief executives to join an LEP scheme.

“It’s in employers’ interests [to join the scheme]. In a tight labour market, to get the people that are needed, employers are increasingly recognising they have to look in communities they might not have looked at in the past,” he said.

“I’d like HR people to recognise and embrace the scale of the opportunity that an approach to greater diversity in recruitment can provide. Companies are missing out on some real skills, enthusiasm and drive there in the labour market which they’re not fully harnessing,” he added.

When asked what HR needed to do to improve the number of BME staff in the workplace, Timms answered: “Sign up to an LEP – that is the answer.”

Some 619 firms have now joined the LEP scheme, resulting in 3,250 people obtaining jobs since its launch last April. Timms said he was confident the government would reach its ambitious targets of 100,000 jobs in a year’s time, and a further 150,000 people employed by 2010.

He gave HR a further guarantee that potential employees coming through the LEP system would be employable, possess basic numeracy, literacy and timekeeping skills. “Our responsibility is to ensure we are presenting to the employer people who are job-ready,” he said.

Case study: Travelodge

Hotel chain Travelodge will use the LEP scheme to recruit a quarter of new staff in 2008, according to its HR director.

Chrissie Herbert said that 25% of the 1,080 people they expected to hire this year could feasibly come through the Jobcentre Plus scheme, which offers the long-term unemployed job opportunities.

Travelodge signed up to the scheme in October 2007, and has already recruited 24 new employees. Herbert said: “The people that come through are pre-screened [by Jobcentre Plus]. They have a real spirit to want to achieve and do the best they can.”

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