Personnel Today Awards 2014 winners: L&Q show the best Youth Employment Initiative

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Housing association L&Q won the Youth Employment category in 2014.

London-based housing association L&Q won the second ever Personnel Today Award for the best Youth Employment Initiative at last month’s ceremony on Park Lane. We look at L&Q’s winning entry and the other organisations that make up the shortlist.


WINNER: L&Q

About the organisation

L&Q is one of around 2,000 housing associations in the UK, founded in 1963. It manages more than 70,000 homes for 130,000 people, employing around 1,300 staff.

The challenge

Youth unemployment recently hit a 20-year high, but among L&Q residents this level was even higher than the national average. L&Q wanted to recruit entrant level individuals and support them through a career in the organisation, as well as become an “employer of choice”.

What the organisation did

  • Reached out to passive candidates; sent texts to residents and influencers to generate interest and build up database of potential recruits.
  • Dropped leaflets through doors, attended job fairs, visited Year 11s in school.
  • Offered apprenticeships in IT, business administration, customer services and accountancy.
  • Management trainee scheme – trainees rotate across business units, move onto people management role and gain ILM level 3 in Leadership and Management.
  • Technical trainee scheme, aiding succession planning for hard-to-fill vacancies.
  • Work experience programme: three intakes per year during school holidays.
  • Formal structured mentoring scheme: 47 mentors currently working with colleagues, mostly on youth employment schemes.
  • Established Ujima Foundation (after merger with another HA) to tackle disadvantage across diversity strands.

Benefits and achievements

  • Age profile shifted in favour of under-25s, which now make up 8% of workforce.
  • Built excellent relationships with local schools and colleges.
  • Increased productivity – trainees say they feel like they are on a two-year interview.
  • Increase in management skills and appetite to gain management skills/experience.
  • Improved recruitment processes (eg assessment centres).
  • Staff turnover just 9%; resident satisfaction is 79%.

Judges’ comments

“A number of linked initiatives, backed up by a significant engagement plan.”


Youth employment – the judges

Dr Emma Parry, research fellow, Cranfield School of Management
Laura-Jane Rawlings and Indy Sira, Youth Employment UK

RUNNERS-UP

 

Standard Life

About the organisation

Standard Life was established in Edinburgh in 1825. It offers pensions, insurance, investments and savings to around six million customers worldwide, and employs more than 5,000 staff.

The challenge

In 2011, Standard Life realised it did not employ anyone in the UK under the age of 21. The diversity of its workforce did not reflect that of its community, despite an average tenure of 18 years. At the same time, Edinburgh was revealed to be the worst performing local authority in Scotland in terms of helping young school leavers find work, so Standard Life introduced its first school-leaver programme in 20 years.

What the organisation did

  • Developed a six-month intern programme for school leavers as part of local Edinburgh Guarantee initiative.
  • Twenty school leavers come into the business every six months to follow core programme of modules, complete with buddy and a mentor (drawn from pool of recent graduates).
  • Designed a bespoke recruitment process that tests for attitude and personality rather than qualifications/minimum entry requirements.
  • Interns must complete a project based on teamwork and enterprise.
  • Young people learn about financial capability so they can manage their own income, and are paid a “living wage”.
  • They are also provided with transparent career pathway to help them move on, helped by partnership with external recruitment firm.

Benefits and achievements

  • Seventy-four people attended the programme since it began in 2012.
  • In June 2014 the company had 91 employees under 21 and a further 197 under 25, compared with under 25s making up just 0.5% previously.
  • Every young person taking part moved into a job or full-time education.
  • Managers get to manage a different demographic and develop their own skills.

Judges’ comments

“An impressive level of support is provided via this initiative.”


Marks & Spencer

About the organisation 
Marks & Spencer is one of the UK’s leading retailers, selling clothing and home products, as well as food that is responsibly sourced from around 2,000 suppliers globally. Its products are sold through almost 800 UK and 455 international stores, and it employs more than 85,000 staff.

The challenge

M&S has a target to become the UK’s most sustainable major retailer. One of its key missions is to help disadvantaged groups gain the skills and confidence to enter the jobs market. In early 2013 it launched Make Your Mark (MYM), an initiative to tackle unemployment and social exclusion among young people, and have a positive impact on local communities.

What the organisation did:

  • Developed partnership with The Prince’s Trust to set up four-week training and work placement programme for young people aged 16 to 25 not in work, education or training (NEET).
  • Devised a structure for implementation and governance with target of getting 50% into work.
  • Established groundwork so supply chain and other employers could benefit from the programme.
  • Developed engagement tools to bring three core groups on board: employees; senior management; and external stakeholders (such as “engagement day” and “train the trainer” sessions).
  • Developed accreditation mechanism so participants can take vacancies at M&S within six months without a formal application.
  • Used a central project manager to set up processes and ensure they were sustainable, but programme would manage itself after set-up.

Benefits and achievements

  • Number of participants launched into work reached 79%, compared with target of 50%.
  • Bank of work-ready, experienced candidates to recruit.
  • Increased employee engagement – stores involved in this have maintained consistently high engagement scores.
  • Trained 40 programme sponsors, 1,500 buddies and coaches – providing excellent career development for existing staff.
  • Added to diversity in age, ethnicity and disability – 10% of employees have a disability, while 20% come from non-British backgrounds.
  • MYM was the catalyst for creation of “Movement to work”, a coalition of companies brought together to tackle youth unemployment, supported by the Government.
  • “It is the largest employability programme we have ever run with an employer and as a result we have seen significant growth in programmes which enable disadvantaged young people find meaningful employment.” Martina Milburn, CEO, Prince’s Trust.

Judges’ comments

“The focus is on long term benefits and also wider benefits than just those for this one company.”


Barclays

About the organisation

With more than 300 years of history, Barclays operates in more than 50 countries and employs almost 140,000 staff.

The challenge

Many financial services companies struggle to recruit young people. Barclays created “Grow with Barclays” programme to offer inclusive careers for all, reach out to a more diverse talent pool and interact more with its local communities. At the same time, it wanted to tackle the bank’s historical lack of diversity, improve employee retention and internal progression, and create alternative talent pipelines.

What the organisation did

  • Devised a connected career path for young people including traineeships, apprenticeships and graduate routes.
  • Introduced sponsored degree programme: BA Hons in management and leadership, 100% funded.
  • Produced scorecard for the “Grow” programme, detailing key performance indicators.
  • Introduced structured work placements for degree programme cohort.
  • Launched major communications programme including line manager packs, apprentice graduation programmes and social media updates, to engage all key stakeholders.
  • Designed degree programme in partnership with two universities.
  • “Bridges into work” initiative matches apprentices to suitable SME clients.
  • Visited local schools to improve employability skills and offer careers guidance.

Benefits and achievements

  • Three-quarters (76.2%) of apprentices are still in the role after six months, compared with non-apprenticeship entry-level roles (68% retention rate after 12 months).
  • Retention of 70% of apprentices and increased career progression will lead to cost savings of £1 million in recruitment by 2015.
  • Majority (90%) of latest cohort received a 2.1 or above from their degree.
  • Before April 2012, less than 1% of Barclays’s workforce was under the age of 20. Currently, 55% of apprentice starters are between 16 and 21 years old.
  • More than 8,000 click-throughs to application page from proactive media campaign.
  • Increase in customer satisfaction from 92% to 94%.

Judges’ comments

“A good range of activities supporting young people at different stages of their career and with some clear benefits to the business.”


Bristol City Council

About the organisation

Bristol City Council is the local authority of Bristol and is a unitary authority, having the powers of a non-metropolitan county and district council combined. It is unusual in the UK local government system in that its executive function is controlled by a directly elected mayor.

The challenge

Bristol had been affected by youth unemployment – 3,745 young people were unemployed in the city in 2012 – and the Council wanted to address this waste of young talent and the resulting social issues. The workforce of the council was also ageing, creating a barrier to job opportunities for young people.

What the organisation did

  • Introduced initiatives including apprenticeships, internships, graduate programme.
  • Offered more than 300 apprenticeships since 2009.
  • Used project search model to find young people with learning disabilities, for example those on autistic spectrum.
  • Introduced ambassador initiative, where apprentices promote apprenticeships both within the council and within local businesses.
  • Used bespoke approach with dedicated apprenticeship team.
  • Provided managers with solid HR support and training throughout apprenticeship.
  • Regular paid internship schemes offering structured work placements.

Benefits and achievements

  • Apprenticeships contributed to growing diversity in the council: increase of 1.5% in BME representation.
  • Able to recruit hard-to-fill posts such as in Highways Department, through apprenticeships and “grow your own” strategy.
  • Success of initiatives has helped dispel view that local government is old fashioned or stuffy.
  • Retention rates are 87%.
  • Youth unemployment in Bristol has fallen to 2,585 from 3,745 in 2012.
  • Workforce demographics changed: increase in 18-24 age band to 4.5% of working population (versus 3.64% in 2009).

Judge’s comments

“The focus on young people with learning difficulties is to be commended. A set of relatively wide-ranging initiatives.”


Compass Group UK & Ireland

About the organisation

Compass Group is a market-leading provider of catering and facilities management services. It operates across a variety of sectors, offering a range of services from cleaning to security to serving meals. It has around 60,000 employees.

The challenge

Compass Group had two specific challenges with regards to youth employment. On the one hand, clients were looking for better added value in contracts by engaging with students directly to assist with employability, while Compass wanted to promote its brand further among young people. The solution to both was an initiative called #EarlyCareers.

What the organisation did

  • #EarlyCareers covers numerous areas such as work experience, apprenticeships, internships, sandwich-year placements, a graduate programme, and college engagement.
  • School pupils can get an insight into suppliers’ facilities, there is a Junior Chef Academy, school aged work experience and careers fairs.
  • Worked with partner organisations to get NEETs between ages 18-24 into employment.
  • Produced employability materials in conjunction with Job Centre Plus.
  • Worked with Business in the Community on its “Generation talent” initiative, which provides support and guidance to other businesses seeking to engage with young talent.
  • Joined steering group for nationwide Careers Lab initiative, which delivers employability/careers advice to schools.

Benefits and achievements

  • Education clients impressed with added value, and retention has improved.
  • Uplift in morale in working population overall.
  • Employed 120 people through Work programme provider Ingeus.
  • Provided taster days and work experience for jobseekers from East London Business Alliance, employing 20 people as a result.
  • University and sandwich-year placements have led to pipeline of motivated students with real interest in working for Compass.

Judges’ comments

“A clear dual purpose addressed via an interesting range of offerings.”


Fife Council

About the organisation

With more than 17,000 employees, Fife Council is the largest employer in Fife. It serves a wide range of communities, covering both affluent and deprived areas.

The challenge

Fife has a lower rate of youth employment than the Scottish national average, and a lower percentage of school leavers enter further education or employment. Fife Council not only wanted to increase the employment of young people in its own organisation, but increase opportunities in the wider local economy.

What the organisation did

  • Added new skills to trades apprenticeships.
  • Set up a heritage team to meet demand for lost skills such as lime rendering and cornicing.
  • Targeted a group of modern apprentices (MA) who had been made redundant for recruitment, “adopting” 38 of them to complete qualification with the council.
  • Committed £1 million per year to create training and job opportunities for 16- to-24-year-olds; each council department asked to think about potential roles.
  • Created 78 MAs (such as early years, home care) and traineeships with another 20 planned by end of this year.
  • Bespoke apprenticeships designed to meet specific role requirements.
  • Introduced employability academies to help young people to gain skills for the world of work.
  • Focused on looked-after children with specialist support for getting them into work.
  • Worked with Jobcentre Plus on providing rolling eight-week placements to unemployed young people.

Benefits and achievements

  • More job opportunities help to support communities through salaries and more disposable income.
  • Workforce planning benefits: percentage of workforce aged 16-24 has grown from 3.7% in 2011/12 to 4.1% in 2013/14.
  • Retention in staff doing trade MAs is more than 90%.
  • Vacancies initially restricted to internal applicants, creating clear path for career progress.
  • Offset investment through cut in recruitment spend, less advertising online and using social media.

Judges’ comments

“A range of useful linked programmes delivered in partnership with Jobcentre Plus.”


Islington Council

About the organisation

Islington London Borough Council is a local authority in north London, one of 32 London borough councils. The borough is known as a wealthy enclave, but is also home to many areas of deprivation.

The challenge

Despite its image as an upmarket, wealthy borough, Islington is the 14th most deprived local authority area in England, and the most densely populated municipal area. It also has one of the highest proportions of families without a working adult in the UK. Youth employment initiatives are at the centre of breaking the circle of poverty for young people in the borough.

What the organisation did

  • Set up apprenticeship scheme in partnership with City & Islington College, open to Islington residents and school leavers – offering a wide range of roles from green space rangers to HR and finance assistants.
  • Apprentices given priority access to employment vacancies in the Council, plus training on CV preparation and interview skills.
  • Number of apprenticeships designed and offered to young people with learning disabilities.
  • Junior assistant scheme: pre-apprenticeship scheme to offer 14-year-olds a taste of working life, focused on two of borough’s most deprived estates.
  • Set up business and employment support team to improve work prospects for local residents, including recruitment service matching residents to vacancies.
  • Volunteering opportunities for employees such as mentoring, work clubs, schools outreach.

Benefits and achievements

  • Three-quarters of apprentices have gained permanent employment with the council at the end of their apprenticeships.
  • Some 333 residents entered jobs thanks to business and employment support team.
  • Created 531 vacancies and 937 positions through partnerships with employers.
  • Eighty-eight people helped into apprenticeships in Islington, 36 with the council itself.
  • Programme helped 244 people aged 16 to 24 into employment in the past year.
  • Twenty-five residents with learning disabilities received job offers; 16 started in employment by March this year.
  • Staff turnover is just 7%, and retention high among 16-to-24 year olds

Judges’ comments

“A number of well-designed, linked initiatives that provide clear benefits to both the community and organisation.”

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