Anne Willmot, Work Inclusion Campaign Director, looks at what the Employment for Excluded Groups Award and Inspiring Young Talent entries show us about how companies are tackling this issue.
“I was depressed, unemployed and I’d lost faith. I couldn’t even make eye contact with anyone. But now I’m a changed man, who loves working and lives with more confidence than ever.”
These are the words of one individual whose life was turned around thanks to the support of a local employer. It demonstrates the powerful impact that businesses can have in their local communities through a well thought-out employment programme. Our two Employment categories within the Responsible Business Awards are all about recognising and celebrating examples like these.
Across the country employment levels are up, but there are still groups who continue to face significant barriers to employment. 1.6 million people are still unemployed (a third of whom have been out of work for over a year); the percentage of young people who are NEET (not in education, training or employment) remains stubbornly high at 12%; and one third of young people in a recent poll of 4000 told us that they found the process of applying for a job difficult.
The statistics tell us that the social case for business action is clear. But it’s smart businesses, like our award winners, that are looking at this issue as a business opportunity. These organisations are developing programmes of support that capitalise on this untapped talent, and they are reaping the benefits of doing so.
Take Sky for example, joint winner of the Unipart Inspiring Young Talent Award. Their Starting Out initiative was developed due to an emerging need for skilled employees in their workforce. Their programme brings together their work experience, apprenticeships and graduate programmes under one umbrella, enabling them to better supply areas of the business where there is a demand for young talent. By connecting CSR outreach to HR needs, the company grows initiatives where there is future business need; creating quality opportunities that aim to retain and grow young employees.
This year’s winner of this year’s Employment for Excluded Groups Award impressed judges with their innovate programme to unlock employment opportunities for excluded groups within their supply chain. Incentivised by a business need to reduce rent arrears, they capitalised on their existing partnerships with suppliers to ring-fence job opportunities for their residents. By increasing the number of tenants who are in work and able to consistently pay their rent, Bolton at Home are able to safeguard for the future.
Lastly, Amicus Horizon’s programme was similarly praised for close partnerships within the local community, and they join Sky as winners of the Unipart Inspiring Young Talent Award. Their programme focuses on their younger residents, who they support through a mentoring programme to find accessible and relevant job opportunities with local businesses. It has also given Amicus Horizon a means of up-skilling and develop their own workforce, whilst improving the prospects of some of their most vulnerable residents.
Through the efforts of our three award winners, more than 1.6 million disadvantaged people have benefited from life-changing business support. That’s 1.6 million people who have developed their professional skills, regained their confidence and, ultimately, secured a job and a more positive future. This is a considerable achievement and I would like to congratulate all the winners for their fantastic efforts.