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«Employer Engagement and Jobcentre Plus by Anne Bellis, Maria Sigala and Sara Dewson Department for Work and Pensions Research Report No 742 Employer ...»

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Research report

Employer Engagement

and Jobcentre Plus

by Anne Bellis, Maria Sigala and Sara Dewson

Department for Work and Pensions

Research Report No 742

Employer engagement and

Jobcentre Plus

Anne Bellis, Maria Sigala and Sara Dewson

A report of research carried out by the Institute for Employment Studies on behalf of the

Department for Work and Pensions

© Crown copyright 2011.

You may re-use this information (not including logos) free of charge in any format or medium, under the terms of the Open Government Licence.

To view this licence, visit http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/ or write to the Information Policy Team, The National Archives, Kew, London TW9 4DU, or email: psi@nationalarchives.gsi.gov.uk.

This document/publication is also available on our website at:


Any enquiries regarding this document/publication should be sent to us at:

Department for Work and Pensions, Commercial Support and Knowledge Management Team, Upper Ground Floor, Steel City House, West Street, Sheffield S1 2GQ First published 2011.

ISBN 978 1 84712 976 5 Views expressed in this report are not necessarily those of the Department for Work and Pensions or any other Government Department.

Contents iii Contents Acknowledgements

The Authors



1 Introduction

1.1 Aims and objectives of the evaluation

1.2 Research methodology

1.3 Structure of report

2 Organisation of Local Employment Partnerships

2.1 Background

2.2 Organisation of Local Employment Partnerships at district/local level

2.3 Views of Jobcentre Plus staff on Local Employment Partnership processes..............8 2.3.1 Changes over time to organisation of Local Employment Partnerships........8 2.3.2 Dilution of the original purpose of Local Employment Partnerships..............9 2.3.3 Increased administrative burden


2.4 Local Employment Partnerships and partnership working

2.5 Value added of Local Employment Partnerships

3 Employer engagement

3.1 Types of employers engaging with Local Employment Partnerships

3.2 Drivers of engagement

3.2.1 Role of the recruitment subsidy

3.3 Impact of the recession

3.4 Local Employment Partnership vacancies

3.5 Employer engagement strategies and employer views of the Jobcentre Plus service

3.6 Employers’ views on customer job readiness

3.7 Employer involvement in Local Employment Partnerships

iv Contents 3.8 Outcomes from employer engagement

3.8.1 Outcomes for Jobcentre Plus

3.8.2 Outcomes for employers

4 Pre-Employment Training

4.1 Pre-Employment Training providers

4.2 Pre-Employment Training models

4.3 The duration of Pre-Employment Training

4.4 The content of Pre-Employment Training

4.5 The role of employers in the design of Pre-Employment Training

4.6 Outcomes from Pre-Employment Training

5 Customers

5.1 Customer characteristics

5.2 Activities undertaken

5.2.1 Pre-Employment Training

5.2.2 Work trials

5.3 Outcomes from Local Employment Partnerships

5.4 Customer views on the Local Employment Partnership experience

5.5 Outstanding needs/other help required to find work

5.5.1 In-work support

5.5.2 Further training

6 Conclusions and recommendations

Appendix Overfield of fieldwork

List of figure Figure A.1 Overview of fieldwork

Acknowledgements v

Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank all participants in this research and particularly those taking part in the local area interviews: Jobcentre Plus staff; training providers; employers; and customers.

Thanks also go to Tim Willis and Alex Dawe at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for their support during the research process.

vi The Authors The Authors Anne Bellis is a Research Fellow in the Unemployment and Labour Market Disadvantage team at the Institute for Employment Studies and was previously a Research Fellow and Lecturer in Continuing Education at the University of Sussex. She has over 20 years’ experience in adult education, both as a practitioner and researcher, specialising in the experiences of educationally excluded groups such as older learners, women returners and people from black and minority ethnic and refugee communities. Anne has contributed to a number of Integrated Employment and Skills (IES) projects within the fields of both labour market disadvantage and learning and skills.

Maria Sigala is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Employment Studies. Her main work has been in the areas of: early years services for families and children; women, employment and childcare;

unemployment and worklessness; area level deprivation and health inequalities; and the integration of employment and skills. Her research interests also include labour market disadvantage with a focus on gender and those with caring responsibilities.

Sara Dewson is an Associate Director at Institute for Employment Studies. Her research skills range from a thorough grounding in quantitative analysis and extensive experience of qualitative research, both of which have been utilised in her work. Sara is an experienced project manager and has contributed to evaluation studies at local, national and international levels for key public policy clients and much of her work has centred around the issues of labour market disadvantage, disability, welfare to work policy, benefit and welfare reform, and skills.

Abbreviations vii Abbreviations CETL Customer Engagement Team Leader CSP City Strategy Partnership CSR Corporate Social Responsibility DAM District Account Manager DEEM District Employer Engagement Manager DERM District External Relations Manager DLEPC District LEP Champion ESA Employment and Support Allowance

–  –  –

Summary The DWP commissioned the Institute for Employment Studies to evaluate Local Employment Partnerships (LEPs), which were introduced in 2007. LEPs aimed to increase the propensity of employers to recruit disadvantaged people into work and were part of a broader effort to connect workless individuals with vacancies, overcoming barriers to work and improving the job matching services offered by Jobcentre Plus and its partners. LEPs were originally aimed at disadvantaged jobseekers who had been out of work for six months or more or who fell into a Jobcentre Plus priority customer group. The policy emphasis was adjusted with the advent of the recession to include newly unemployed Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) customers.

The evaluation has centred around two waves of qualitative interviews with a range of personnel:

national Jobcentre Plus, DWP and Learning and Skills Council (LSC) staff; Jobcentre Plus district and local staff in eight areas in England, Scotland and Wales; local and national employers; customers;

and training providers and other stakeholders at a district level. The first round of interviews took place in autumn 2008 and the second wave in the early part of 2010.

The main aims of the research were to explore the successful elements of LEPs, to ascertain why employers had engaged with LEPs and what they had gained from doing so, to look at the impact of LEPs on partnership working and to determine which customers had benefited from taking part.

The research also examined the introduction, implementation and organisation of LEPs at national,

district and local levels. The key findings of the research are:

Organisation of Local Employment Partnerships After the initial implementation period, the delivery of LEPs became integrated into general Jobcentre Plus core business. District Employer Engagement Managers tended to be responsible for monitoring employer engagement across districts and liaising closely with (and in some cases managing) Labour Market Recruitment Advisers (LMRAs).

LMRAs were key to employer engagement and sign-up to LEPs at the local office level. Their main responsibilities included: promoting LEPs and Jobcentre Plus services to employers; liaising with employers and handling their vacancies and recruitment needs; and collecting and disseminating information about employer sign-ups. LMRAs also liaised closely with Jobcentre Plus Personal Advisers (PAs), passing on information about LEP vacancies and the requirements of local employers to assist with customer referrals.

The focus at local and district office level in relation to LEPs has primarily been process- and targetdriven with very little evidence of a strategic approach. For example, the research found no strong evidence that Jobcentre Plus or its partners were identifying growth sectors and targeting LEP employer sign-up in these sectors or integrating LEP Pre-Employment Training (PET) provision with local provision pipelines: the emphasis at the local level was primarily to open up as many locally available vacancies to local jobless people as possible. Although this was not a distinct requirement of LEP policy, there was also very little emphasis placed on the quality of LEP job outcomes, i.e.

length of job, sustainability of the job, or opportunity for progression at the local level. Significant resources were directed at the validation process for LEP job outcomes in several local offices and districts, which was perceived by many staff working in these offices to be overly burdensome.

However, the decision to introduce extra validation checks was taken at the regional level and was not part of national policy.

2 Summary LEPs were perceived by Jobcentre Plus staff with a more strategic remit to have strengthened their links with partners (mainly training providers) although LEPs had rarely resulted in the formation of new partnerships. Most training providers engaged in LEP PET, and many employers signing up to LEPs were already working with Jobcentre Plus.

One of the main advantages of LEPs was the way they promoted longer-term relationships between Jobcentre Plus and employers, which allowed a much better understanding of their needs. Most Jobcentre Plus staff reported that LEPs had improved both the quality and professionalism of the service they offered to employers.

Employer engagement The primary reason offered by employers for engaging with LEPs was the business need to fill vacancies. Employers also reported that the help available from Jobcentre Plus to assist with the recruitment process was an important driver. Many employers welcomed the free Jobcentre Plus service: free advertising and help with matching and screening candidates, sifting applications and arranging interviews. Some employers, and particularly large employers, were also motivated to take part in LEPs because of their corporate social responsibility.

Employers reported that the most effective way to market LEPs was by word-of-mouth and direct contact with Jobcentre Plus staff. Many employers had recommended LEPs to other employers during business events. Several employers stressed the importance of having a single point of contact at Jobcentre Plus, which helped them to navigate a large and often confusing organisation.

Employers reported mixed views about LEP candidates. Some employers were positive and thought that Jobcentre Plus had spent time and effort identifying and referring job-ready candidates. A number of employers reported that the quality of candidates for LEP vacancies was improving as they worked more closely with Jobcentre Plus to improve screening and matching procedures and PET provision. However, in some areas employers were concerned about the variable quality of candidates, believing some Jobcentre Plus staff were referring the wrong people for interviews.

Employers were using work trials, work placements, PET and guaranteed interviews as part of LEPs.

Many employers were involved in designing PET courses. PET was generally considered to be a successful way of engaging employers and securing participation in LEPs.

Pre-employment training PET tended to operate in two ways: as bespoke training for an employer with several vacancies (usually a large employer) or more generic and occupation- or sector-specific training for multiple employers (e.g. in security or social care). PET tended to be short at around two weeks’ duration, and was aimed at customers who were job-ready but who needed to gain specific occupational skills or knowledge such as manual handling or health and safety, or job interview skills, etc. PET was not appropriate for customers who were further from the labour market and who had more complex or entrenched barriers to work.

–  –  –

Customers Customers’ experiences of LEPs were positive when they had resulted in employment, or if they had progressed in some way towards employment, for example, attended an open day with an employer or a work trial, or participated in PET. Other customers remained too far away from the labour market for LEP activities to have made a difference; their barriers to work remained entrenched and required alternative forms of help.

Conclusions and recommendations Employers, Jobcentre Plus and training providers have worked closely together on LEPs and the services provided, and organisational understanding, between these stakeholders has been improved. Many employers have reported positively on the service they received and the quality of candidates coming through for vacancies. However, few new employers have come on board overall as a result of LEPs, although this had started to change in recent months with more small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) involvement, and some employers continued to report poor-quality candidates being referred to them.

The key recommendations arising from this study in relation to employer engagement are:

• Jobcentre Plus needs to maintain links with existing employers and also engage new employers and work closely with them to understand their recruitment needs.

• Employer engagement staff within Jobcentre Plus are required to maintain links with employers and, wherever possible, these staff should provide a single point of contact for employers to provide continuity of service.

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