In today’s labour market, the need for specialist, tailored employment support services has never been greater. As one of the largest providers of employment support, we understand that there is a real method to the design, implementation and delivery of these programmes that can ensure an individual receives the targeted help that they need.
Yet unless you are a participant on an employment programme, or closely involved in their delivery, many won’t be fully aware of the ins and outs of this type of provision, or the range of support on offer.
Through a programme of research involving a series of focus groups with our own Employment Advisers (EAs) and participants on employment programmes we deliver, we wanted to crystallise the core benefits that dedicated employment services are able to provide. This can be summed up as going ‘over and above’ the core services jobseekers receive in their local Jobcentre Plus, to give participants the enhanced, personalised support they need to move towards sustainable employment.
The research project identified five key themes which illustrate this, demonstrating where employment providers offer a distinctive service and set of benefits:
- Our focus and expertise: Providers focus on offering a specific form of employment support, utilising an EA’s experience and expertise. Our EAs are dedicated solely to helping our participants overcome whatever barriers they have and move into sustainable work. The participant focus groups agreed that we understood their needs, including those related to health and disability, and put in place targeted interventions which stimulated real progress.
- Investing time: We invest the time required in each participant to engage and support them. Reflecting our focus on helping those with barriers, our EAs have the flexibility and autonomy to spend the time they need to with participants. This allows them to have meaningful discussions to understand barriers, motivations and skills. Participants highlighted the importance of the time they spent with their EA, which ensured they felt at ease, listened to, and understood.
- Developing trusted relationships: The time EAs spend with each participant also enables the kind of relationships which generate real results to develop. Feedback from EAs highlighted the importance of really getting to know participants, so that support is properly targeted, appropriate, and effective. Participants themselves reported that it was a real benefit to have a consistent, dedicated EA who was contactable and that they could trust was there to help them. By developing real, trusted relationships, we work with people to understand what they need to help them move forward.
- Delivering personalised support: We personalise how we deliver support to suit people’s needs, circumstances and ambitions. Feedback from EA and participant focus groups stressed the importance of a personal approach, both in terms of what is delivered, and how. For the former this could be certain training courses that participants need for a particular role, or interview preparation for a specific job. In terms of how people access support, this can include adjustments to location or scheduling to suit individual circumstances. We heard again and again from participants that being treated as a ‘whole person’ was an empowering aspect of delivery.
- Creating the right environment: We provide a welcoming environment where people feel safe to explore how they can move into employment. Our branches and offices are designed to support the work we do with participants. EAs and participants noted the benefits of bright and open spaces for fostering a collaborative approach and a positive ‘buzz’. It is just as important to cultivate a warm and friendly atmosphere, and feedback from participants is a testament to colleagues’ success in achieving this.
You can read more in our newly published report: ‘Over and Above’: the added value of employment support services.