Faye Goldman, Campaign Manager at Business in the Community reflects on the entries to the Freshfields Work Inclusion Award, including the Winner.
We continue to hear positive messages about the state of the labour market with government statistics indicating that employment rates are now at an historic high. But a closer look at the numbers shows that we’re still a long way off from full employment, with 2.6 unemployed people to every vacancy.
Smart businesses with jobs to fill are taking more and more steps to make work accessible and sustainable to those facing barriers to work. The Freshfields Work Inclusion Award recognises those companies that are doing the most to reach people furthest away from the labour market, improving their chances of employment.
Looking across our shortlisted companies, the mechanisms of support are similar – skills training, mentoring and work placements remain the most common methods - but the scale and point of intervention varies from one company to the next.
Businesses like Barclays are aiming for large-scale impact by investing in existing projects to deliver employability support to millions of young people, whereas organisations such as DHL and Manchester Airport Group are running smaller programmes which meet a specific recruitment need within their sector.
Overall, companies are taking a more joined-up approach, reaching out to people at different stages of the journey into work. This is an encouraging sign as it demonstrates a long-term commitment from business to tackle unemployment and social exclusion by offering support well before an individual enters their workforce.
Our six finalists have shown an impressive commitment to this agenda. What stands out from their entries is a clear understanding of the social and business case for their activity, and a strong link to the core business needs. But above all else, these companies are having a powerful impact on their local communities and have collectively helped over 4,000 people into employment.
As the overall category Winner, Land Securities impressed the judges with their highly targeted London Employment Strategy, which brings together a range of partners to provide bespoke training initiatives for marginalised Londoners. What makes this programme unique is not just the positive social impact it’s having, but it’s also helping to address the skills gap caused by the economic downturn - benefiting the construction industry as a whole.
This programme shows us that employment initiatives of this kind, when designed carefully, can bring benefits beyond the individuals and businesses directly involved, but also to the taxpayer and the wider community as a whole. Land Securities understand this and enjoy strong support and buy-in from across the business, as a result.
All entries should be commended for committing time, money and resource to helping groups of people who face particular barriers to finding and keeping work and I urge you to read each of their case studies.
But as these programmes grow and evolve, we encourage entrants to look beyond the numbers of people into work and focus on the quality of work experiences on offer. Only by providing good, sustainable employment opportunities can companies completely transform the lives of some of the most vulnerable people.