Employment rates have reached a record high in recent months – but many of those who remain unemployed continue to face multiple barriers to work. There are approximately 1.7 million unemployed people in the UK, a third of whom have been out of work for one year. In this climate, businesses can play a vital role. Through practical training, changes to recruitment practices, and work and progression opportunities, businesses are able to make employment more accessible to young people and excluded groups, particularly those who are furthest from the jobs market.
The Unipart Award for Outstanding Employment recognises those businesses that are taking a comprehensive approach to employment, making good quality work more accessible for all.
Apprenticeship and Traineeship Programmes
Apprenticeships at Barclays began as a way to tackle a critical shortage of young and diverse talent in its business. Today, they sit at the heart of Barclays’ employment strategy, with more than 3,000 people having benefitted from the bank’s tailored approach to work opportunities.
The bank offers traineeships which support people with little or no experience to become work ready, and the ‘Bolder’ apprenticeship is aimed specifically at those aged 24 and over. For Barclays, a diverse workforce is key, with its black and minority ethnic workforce standing at 19% (against a national average of 11%). It also offers three-month internships to people with mental health conditions. These programmes are making a proven difference - 88% of apprentices who joined Barclays three years ago are still with them.
Tomorrow’s Talent Today
Capgemini prides itself on its people-centred approach to technology. It bridges the digital skills gap through a programme which starts at the school gates and last year worked with 60 education providers to offer new opportunities to young people. The company co-launched TechFuture Women’s Network in 2016, a volunteering network with Tech Partnership that sees 600 women who work in tech use their expertise to inspire young people, particularly girls, about careers in the industry, with the aim of addressing the stark gender imbalance of the sector (women hold less than 25% of IT jobs).
Earlier this year Capgemini’s job offers for junior roles were 40% for women. Elsewhere its leading role in encouraging strengths-based recruitment processes are evident in its apprenticeship programme, which offers young people a foothold in technology that previously were only for graduates. It was the first company to create Degree Apprenticeships, partnering with Aston University, and today over 300 young people are on its apprentice programme.
Centrica prove the adage that it’s not necessarily where you’ve been, it’s where you are going that matters. The multinational energy company judges it candidates on their strengths; not their background. Centrica’s fosters a diverse and inclusive workforce through innovative apprenticeships and work placement schemes, one which has been replicated by three of its major suppliers. Centrica has a retention rate of 96% for its apprenticeship programmes, nearly a fifth higher than the industry average. More than three-quarters of Centrica’s apprentices remain with the organisation ten years after starting training. Its work with ex-service candidates further bolsters its position as a pioneer of responsible business in the workplace. Access to a wider pool of talent ensures the company has the skills needed to meet new business demands, including the rise of smart technology and decentralised energy.
Inclusive recruitment is a cornerstone of what Greggs does. Take its Fresh Start initiative which supports ex-offenders, the long term unemployed and former service personnel into work. Last year the programme exceeded its target and reached over 700 people.
Employment and development opportunities are available throughout its two centres of excellence; regional bakeries and distribution centres and 1,700 high street shops. Collaboration is key to developing the bakery’s inclusive approach, and includes working in partnership the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Work and Pensions on the Government’s See Potential campaign. Locally, partnerships with universities, job centres and community organisations are fostered to help young people discover career paths at the organisation, which three quarters of its staff recommend as a “great place to work”.
KPMG 360° Apprenticeship Programme
Last year KPMG helped to prepare 15,813 people for the world of work through a diverse employability offering which includes career awareness and insights session; employability workshops; mentoring and tutoring. Its rotational apprenticeship programme, KPMG 360°, works hard to support individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds – and over 80% of individuals who complete its Business Support Academy apprenticeships go on to permanent positions at the accountancy firm. In the financial year ending 2016, more than half (53%) of the KPMG’s employee volunteers supported employment related programmes and its belief in developing employees to be socially conscious is supported through each of its 22 offices nationwide having a Corporate Responsibility forum.
Marks & Start and Make Your Mark
Marks & Spencer’s commitment to its core employability programmes – Marks & Start and Make Your Mark – continues apace through this year’s ambitious launch of its large scale apprenticeship programme. The retailer is recruiting over 1,600 people into its business through pioneering initiatives, including a new cyber-security apprenticeship and an engineering apprenticeship at its distribution centre. Globally the expansion of Marks & Start – which supports those who face barriers getting into work – has already exceeded its target of reaching six countries by 2020. Each year, almost 3,000 people are supported to make the retailer a diverse and inclusive place to work with a focus on the hardest to reach – former homeless people or those at risk of homelessness; ex-offenders; those in or leaving care; and the long-term unemployed.
Combining educational outreach with work experience
National Grid’s approach across its various programmes for young people and excluded groups is to combine recruitment with educational outreach and work experience.
To meets its need for a high-skilled local workforce and the long term benefit of addressing the critical shortage of STEM talent coming through schools and colleges, National Grid has worked to ensure as wide a talent pool as possible is available. Its focus on excluded groups is seen through initiatives such as its Young Offender Programme, its NEET pathway called GetSkilled, which offers up to year-long opportunities at Business Learning Centres in University campuses to develop work skills and its newest programme, “EmployAbility – Let’s work together, a Supported Internship programme for young people with learning disabilities.
The success of its outreach initiatives are evident as since 2011 National Grid has received a 9% increase in female applications and a 21% increase in BAME applications for its New Talent programmes for apprentices, students and graduates and 60% of its Supported Interns with learning disabilities have gone into paid employment compared to a national average of only 6%.
Central to the success of Skanska’s employment practices has been a willingness to engage in collaborative relationships with external partners chosen based on specific groups they represent. The contractors - behind major projects such as the Gherkin and Crossrail in London - actively support employment from excluded groups. Over the past three years more than 100 former military personnel and over 500 young trainees, apprentices and interns have gained permanent employment. Last June, Experience Skanska launched its Return to Work Programme, in partnership with Women Returners, enabling the firm to take a flexible approach to changes in its internal operations where required.
Youth Employment Programme
High levels of youth unemployment in the North West and an ageing workforce were the drivers for United Utilities’ pioneering Youth Employment Programme. The UK’s largest listed water company has developed a stellar reputation for its employability model. Collaboration and partnership building are key for the scheme, which saw them build and maintain strong links with the DWP and local schools and colleges. The company expects to double its partner companies this year. Progress of its young recruits are mapped at regular intervals and 65% of participants across five cohorts of young people who were previously not in education training or employment have moved into paid employment. United Utilities has hired over 300 graduates and apprentices since 2010, and other businesses have adopted and implemented their model of reaching young talent.
WISE – Whitbread Investing in Skills and Employment
Whitbread employs 50,000 staff worldwide through its Costa outlets, Premier Inns and restaurants – and has a ready supply of young and able workers driven by WISE (Whitbread Investing in Skills and Employment). Its employment offer is wide ranging: from the delivery of school presentations aimed at 11-18 year olds, to work placements for all ages who are not in education, employment or training. The company’s commitment to a diverse workforce continues apace. In 2016 the company opened a new training facility at Derwen College, a Shropshire based learning difficulties and disabilities specialist. Whitbread is serious about retaining and developing its existing workforce, offering a range of apprenticeships, not just for new starters. Almost a fifth of graduates from its apprenticeships end up in management roles, and one in four hotel managers were previously apprentices.