The country’s businesses fought their way through the pandemic and now they are on their way back.
However, employers are finding it difficult to recruit enough staff and this is threatening to restrict growth and stifle the recovery.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of job vacancies in November 2021 to January 2022 rose to a new record of 1,298,400.
But through the Way to Work campaign, the government and businesses are working together to get half a million people into employment by the end of June. Jobcentre Plus has always helped companies to recruit, and now more than ever it can support employers in finding talented and motivated candidates.
One sector in need of more workers is healthcare, with over 100,000 vacancies nationally. In Dudley, in the West Midlands, the Jobcentre Plus team has developed a close working relationship with Sutton Coldfield-based healthcare recruitment agency Fairway Homecare to help get people into unfilled posts.
Fairway runs a scheme through its sister company, Embark Learning. It takes prospective candidates put forward by Jobcentre Plus and trains them before passing them on to Fairway, which provides them with a full-time role on a permanent contract. They can then be assigned roles in home care or residential care homes.
“The service Jobcentre Plus provides us with is essential,” says Alex O’Neill, operations director at Fairway.
“And our relationship with its work coaches is absolutely critical to everything we do. Since we started working with Jobcentre Plus, we have put 1,600 carers through our programme, over 600 of them in the last year alone. This year, we’re hoping to put a thousand through.”
“We have actually got a ready-made pool of talent on our doorstep,” says David, a member of the Jobcentre Plus Dudley Borough Employer Adviser Team.
“Some, not all, employers have a negative perception of the people who use the jobcentre network, but the huge majority of those who we see really want to work. They need opportunities and we need vacancies.”
Through Way to Work, Jobcentre Plus offices around the country can support employers in several ways: by streamlining and speeding up recruitment processes; promoting any vacancies within local branches and online; and matching, pre-screening and booking guaranteed interviews. They can also provide invitations to attend local employer recruitment events and sector job fairs.
“We provide local jobs for local people across every sector, not just healthcare,” says David. “I’m passionate about finding people jobs – that’s why I do this.”
One happy beneficiary of jobcentre support is Kate from Wolverhampton. The mum-of-three lost her hospitality job at the height of the pandemic and had to claim Universal Credit. But thankfully, her local Jobcentre Plus pointed her towards Fairway Homecare.
“I’m a people person and a caring person and I like working face-to-face – I told them that when I had my interview at the jobcentre,” she says. “They suggested I try care giving and I’m really grateful because it’s the best thing that could have happened. I love it.”
Kate took to her role so successfully she was nominated for a prize at this year’s Great British Care Awards.
“I never wanted to be on Universal Credit. Circumstances during the pandemic meant I had no choice. But now I want to progress in my new career and train as a nurse. I want to be the best I can be.”
Good for us and for them
Struggling to find recruits? Jobcentres helped these businesses to track down talent
Paul Bristow Associates
Screen-printing company Paul Bristow Associates is typical of many businesses desperate to fill roles as trade picks up. The family-run firm from Wrexham, North Wales, makes high-quality textile products, including T-shirts and printed bags for English Heritage and the V&A.
It turned to the local team at Wrexham Jobcentre to source young people to fill vacancies. Since the start of the pandemic it has employed 31 people in roles like packing, admin, sales and even sustainability.
“We have been able to get more young people into the business and provide them with a good grounding in print and textiles,” says director Ben Bristow.
HR manager Lee Dixon adds, “If I’m short of staff my first call won’t be an agency, it will be Jobcentre Plus.”
The national retail supply chain firm Clipper Logistics could find no unemployed HGV drivers, and few people could afford £3,000 training, especially on benefits.
So the firm came up with an innovative solution with local jobcentres to find candidates with a driving licence, train them and test them itself.
“This way people can get qualified without having to spend huge sums,” says Susan McKeown, regional transport manager. “The jobcentres really embraced the idea and worked with us to make it happen. And we’ve only had positive experiences with their candidates.”
Copper & Carbon
The green energy sector is now creating many job opportunities as the UK works towards its net zero goals.
Copper & Carbon was founded in 2020 at Edinburgh Business School by Abdhesh Kumar to make a wind turbine generator for the renewable energy sector. He has steadily expanded his team by sourcing graduates through a government scheme.
“Without this help, I don’t think we’d have made the progress we have made so far,” says Abdhesh.
“It’s been beneficial for us, but also the people we’ve been able to give a job to.”