Employment program in U.K. off to promising start: Survey

But employer awareness needs boosting

The United Kingdom’s Work Programme, introduced by the government more than one year ago, is seeing early progress but it needs to build on that by increasing awareness and understanding of the scheme amongst employers, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

A majority (79 per cent) of employers that have used the program said recruits met or exceeded their expectations while 58 per cent said candidates were better prepared for interviews and demonstrated better presentation skills as a result of the program, found the CIPD’s survey of more than 1,000 employers.

And the number of organizations that plan to participate in the program will increase moderately during the next three years.

The Work Programme is delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions through contracted service providers in the private and voluntary sectors and provides tailored support for unemployment benefit claimants who need more help to undertake active and effective job seeking.

However, 49 per cent of employers are unaware of the program and a high proportion feel it is not relevant for their organization (48 per cent of those employers that do not plan to recruit via the program), found the CIPD.

In addition, amongst those employers that have recruited through the program, only one-half plan to hold on to the new hires for longer than six months and 48 per cent felt participants lack certain job-specific or technical skills.

There are two key areas of concern that will determine whether the early success of the program will be sustained, according to Gerwyn Davies, CIPD labour market adviser at the CIPD.

First, the government needs to put as much clout behind improving awareness and understanding of the Work Programme amongst employers in all sectors as it has with pensions auto-enrolment, he said.

“Secondly, the high rate of churn after the six-month mark suggests that there may be a mismatch between participants and the employment opportunities that are being given to them, and that some employers may have unrealistically high expectations regarding the technical skills of individuals who have been out of work for a long time. Instead of expecting the system to churn out work-ready individuals, employers need to play their part too by focusing more effort on training and developing new hires, in order to build their future workforces and have a lasting impact on helping the long term unemployed back into work.”

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