How employment support can address the current labour market conundrum

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Today is Employability Day. We are proud to join with ERSA and fellow providers across the country in celebrating all the fantastic work that is done every day throughout the year, by the many thousands of colleagues who are working in our sector.

The work they do supports economic growth, strengthens local economies, and most importantly, transforms lives by supporting people to become more socially integrated and economically independent. It’s also more important than ever.

Current challenges

On the surface, the latest headline statistics on the state of the labour market show that the market is in a good place. There are record numbers of people in work, the employment rate – at 76% – is very high, whilst unemployment – at just over 3% – is low and there are 30 million people currently on company payrolls.

This is all to be welcomed. Mainstream employment support is effectively matching people to roles in a dynamic labour market filled with vacancies.

Yet taking a closer look at the data also points to a conflicting picture. There are around a million jobs in our economy that, for various reasons, cannot be filled. Economic inactivity is still stubbornly stuck at over 20% and there are now a record 2.6 million people outside of the labour market due to long-term sickness.

The disability employment gap – at 29.8% – is at its widest level for five years and recent YouGov research shows that disabled people are almost twice as likely as non-disabled people to say that their disability “makes getting a job impossible”.

What these statistics reiterate is that the need for specialist, dedicated employment support is as high as it has ever been. And to make a difference, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

The role our sector can play

I wanted to highlight three ways our sector can help address these current challenges:

Reaching underserved communities

It is clear that hundreds of thousands of people who would benefit from accessing tailored support are not currently engaged with “the system”. High levels of economic inactivity point to the need for new programmes and services that cater to this group, in particular disabled people and those with health conditions.

To reach those furthest from employment, we need to find new ways to engage, beyond Jobcentres and the Universal Credit system, removing perceived risks and taking provision to potential participants. Through our Fair Start Scotland service, 4 in 10 participants access our support through referrals via charities and local organisations, or directly via community engagement events and social media. Devolved services have developed referral routes through local GPs or treating clinicians; others through local hubs.

More tailored support

Our recent report ‘Over and Above’, highlighted the added value of employment support services, which allow specialist advisors to invest more time with individuals to develop a trusting relationship, understanding their barriers to employment and career aspirations in a welcoming environment.

It’s exciting to hear how different models of provision, including Individual Placement Support and Supported Employment which we have previously delivered, are influencing future programme design and attracting more funding. The key will be to find ways to deliver specialist support at scale to ensure the greatest number of people have access.

Community integration

Effective employment support has proven to be able to integrate local services and programmes, while offering the scale needed to engage with major employers and deliver value for money for the taxpayer. We are fortunate at Maximus to be able to draw on the resources of our Community Partnership Networks (CPN) which are made up of the very best of public, private and voluntary sector provision.

Our frontline colleagues are able to draw upon nearly 400 network members to ensure that participants on our programmes receive the personalised support that is right for them, and local to where they live. As a major provider of employment support services, our CPN enables us to remove traditional barriers to local collaboration and integration, and open up funding opportunities to more local specialists. All of this improves personalisation and drives better quality, life-changing outcomes.

Looking ahead

Our sector possesses the experience and know-how to help address all these challenges. Our business alone has supported more than 35,000 people into work over the past year. So, on this Employability Day we’re recommitting to doing everything we can to make sure everyone reaps the benefits of a healthy and sustainable working life.

30 June, 2023