Friday 15th April 2016 was the inaugural UK Employability Day. This was an important opportunity for employment support providers to open their doors and showcase their work in communities up and down the UK. My visit to see the PeoplePlus service at Usk House, Newport, as Shadow Employment Minister gave me the chance to meet some truly inspirational people and brought issues around the future of employment support, which I had discussed at a meeting in Parliament earlier in the week, to life.
The event was full of energy and positive stories, from someone who had previously struggled with their self-confidence but was now helping others to overcome similar issues, to a young parent, eager to work, who had put in dozens of job applications that day.
Two days before the event, on 13th April, I had raised the success of the Welsh Government’s Jobs Growth Wales programme on the floor of House of Commons, setting out that, since 2012, Jobs Growth Wales has helped 15,000 people into meaningful employment. I pointed out that youth unemployment is falling faster in Wales than the UK as a whole. It is clear that both the Welsh Government and our diverse range of employment support providers are working hard to overcome barriers and help make that happen.
Thus, it was no surprise to see a steely determination to achieve goals in evidence at the event. The staff I met were driven and committed, wanting to make a positive difference to people’s lives. Often central to that task is helping people to recognize their own talents. Those who have never put a CV together often think they have nothing relevant to include. Helping them to see value of their achievements and the transferable skills they have is not only an important step towards getting a job, but an empowering exercise in itself.
At Usk House there was a definite rapport between the staff and those job-seekers who were present. Staff had clearly spent time compiling background information for every individual, ensuring that the most appropriate advice and support is given. This personalised approach which treats people as individuals is clearly key to their success. Employer input is also very important here: ensuring CVs include the qualities that local employers are looking for puts candidates in a far better place to at least be offered an interview for a position.
A wide variety of organisations were present at the event, each offering their own perspective. I was particularly pleased to see that support was on offer for those who wanted to become self-employed. Self-employment offers an independence and flexibility that is attractive to many people. It is unsurprising that there are some 4.6 million self-employed people in the UK today, and this number is likely to grow. Politicians need to respond to the new policy challenges this will present, ensuring that self-employed people are not left behind in regards to access to a social security safety net and decent pensions.
Yet, whilst working alone is a prominent feature of modern life, it was the sense of teamwork so evident at the event that made the lasting imprint on my mind. I spoke to a group of people determined to achieve their aims of improving people’s lives, and their work is to be commended. Employability Day is an important opportunity to do this and I hope after the success of the first year it will be a regular fixture in the calendar.
-Nick Thomas-Symonds, Shadow Minister for Employment