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Movement to Work: The risks and the rewards of supporting young people

Catch22's Chief Executive, Chris Wright, talks workplace diversity and the importance of employment for young people ahead of the Movement to Work CEO Summit event.

03 February 2020

Unemployment rates amongst certain groups remain alarmingly high.

For ex-offenders, care leavers, young people from poorer socio-economic backgrounds, and those with mental or physical health issues – employment is a game-changer.  Work is not just a means to support themselves, their families and the economy; the daily commitment gives people a sense of purpose and a chance to connect.

To improve these outcomes, we need to see organisations giving these people a chance. And while I could talk all day about the benefits of improving workplace diversity, as leaders we need to address why some organisations aren’t opening their doors.

A risky business?

Employing someone who has come from a particularly troubled background or carries a criminal conviction comes with a risk. They may lack formal qualifications, some may require flexible work schedules, and others may find it difficult to acclimatise to the working environment.

But businesses carry risk every day. It’s not good enough to say it’s too much effort or the risks are too great.

The reality is that when a good candidate is matched with a good employer, the outcomes are far beyond anything you’ll see from your Corporate Social Responsibility budget.

Catch22 and teams like ours can act as a bridge to get your future employees work ready –we help ‘hard to reach’ individuals develop their confidence and commitment and we help organisations fill their skills gaps.

Untapped potential

Despite 88% of prisoners feeling motivated to get a job, 75% are released without a job to go to – that’s around 62,000 people a year. And when a prison leaver has a job, we know they are half as likely to reoffend.

Despite these figures, 88% of prisoners feel motivated to get a job. There is sometimes a perception amongst employers that prison leavers, or those who have faced personal challenges in their lives are somehow less skilled or less reliable than other candidates.  In fact, the opposite is often the case. Companies who employ people with criminal records regularly report that they’re skilled, loyal and incredibly hard working – making them excellent recruits.

 

Breaking down barriers

The barriers to work these groups face can make apprenticeships, training schemes and employability programmes inaccessible.  And currently, there is little incentive for employers to take on people who are from these underserved groups.

If we are going to offer work opportunities to those who stand to benefit the most – those without the social mobility – there needs to be further incentives for employers to engage training providers and youth outreach organisations that specialise in working with these underserved groups and providing the pathways to access these opportunities.

Policy solutions

Tomorrow afternoon I will be attending the Movement to Work CEO Summit. We joined this coalition last year, as part of our efforts to support hard-to-reach individuals in to work and to help disadvantaged young people find their purpose.

At the summit, we’ll be discussing the proposed policies we feel could have a real impact in better serving those facing barriers to work and training, and apprenticeships. These include:

  • apprenticeship levy payers should be compelled to dedicate at least half of their levy payment to new starters as a way of supporting more young people who choose not to go down the university route.
  • the £300m of unspent apprenticeship levy should be ring-fenced to youth employment services for underserved groups
  • and the apprenticeship minimum wage must be increased to the living wage so that those underserved groups for whom money is tight are better supported

Policy in practice

We need to see a more financially inclusive system too. Financing only the basics of a new training or employment opportunity is enough to put off those who need it most.

For example, in partnership with The Children’s Society, we run the Bright Light programme. Nearly 40% of care leavers aged 19-21 are currently unemployed and Bright Light has been designed to get care leavers into apprenticeships, training or sustainable employment.

The care leavers are financially supported to attend training days and interviews, covering transport, work wear and other necessary costs. This support was offered after feedback from care leavers told us how much of a barrier finances were for them to even consider taking these opportunities.

I also want to see greater incentives for employers to take on individuals from underserved groups – in the vein of the £1,000 bursary currently given to employers and training providers who employ care leavers.

We all have a responsibility to help those who need it most, but only with the right policies will we see action from those we need it from most.

Tomorrow will be an opportunity for employers, training providers and Government to discuss how we can all work harder to support underserved parts of the population into employment.