The Employment Service has admitted that it needs to beef up its service for employers.
Chief executive Leigh Lewis told a Commons select committee hearing last week that the Employment Service was working on improving relations with companies.
But he insisted the organisation had made significant progress over the last few years, especially by requiring job centre managers to go out and meet major local employers.
He said, “Many perceptions tend to be based on `what was’ and it can be quite hard to change perceptions.
“I don’t want to sit here and say that our service is a good as it should be. That said, we are very, very clear indeed that employers are now a key customer group of the Employment Service.”
But Leigh warned that focussing too much on employers could detract from its commitment to help unemployed people find work.
He said, “If we were to concentrate simply on employers as sole customer, we might start getting the balance wrong.”
He highlighted the potential pitfalls of trying too hard to persuade recruitment directors to look at ES candidates.
“If you refer too many people who are not suitable, you risk wasting an employer’s time and they will not come back to the Employment Service,” he told MPs.
He continued, “Our aim is to refer good, creditable candidates who have a real chance of meeting an employer’s specifications.”
The proportion of firms using the ES rose from 62.6 per cent to 68 per cent in 1999/2000, he added.
The Employment Sub-Committee is conducting an inquiry into recruiting unemployed people.
MPs quizzed Leigh on whether the ES was planning to increase its “share” of the recruitment market, especially in managerial and technical positions.
Leigh confirmed that he wanted the ES to offer more high-paid and highly-skilled jobs.
By Helena Jones