Councils aim to cut Shropshire unemployment with job junctions

There are finally signs of hope for the unemployed in Shropshire. David Burrows reports on the help on offer.

Telford & Wrekin Council business and administration apprentice Amelia McCabe helps Sewi Singh Gill with his job search
Telford & Wrekin Council business and administration apprentice Amelia McCabe helps Sewi Singh Gill with his job search

Unemployment in Shropshire might have fallen to its lowest level for five years, with the jobless total in Telford at a three-year low, but for the region’s local authorities that is still not good enough.

However, with the squeeze on public finances tighter than ever, officials are having to come up with innovative ways to tackle the situation.

In Shropshire, that has lead to a pilot scheme which helped 10 people into work in the last eight weeks.

And Telford & Wrekin is also taking a proactive stance with “Job Junctions” springing up across the borough, helping to find work for 71 people in six months. Both are about providing tailored support for individuals, taking into account their needs.

Brookside Community Centre Cafe manager Dave Cassie
Brookside Community Centre Cafe manager Dave Cassie

It works – and has brought fresh hope to those given the opportunity for a new start.

The Job Junction has helped people such as 34-year-old Jenny Bellamy, from Brookside, Telford. Before she started going to Job Junction she had never had a job. She said: “I’d never worked. I was a full-time mum.

“I heard about Job Junction through word-of-mouth and got onto a course for food hygiene which was held here at the community centre and then Job Junction helped me for jobs as a kitchen assistant.

“I came here in January last year and started working in March. I got a job at Phoenix School, then I got another job with a catering firm called The Compass Group and also got a cleaning job with them too.

“Job Junction helped me with my CV. I didn’t think I had anything to put on a CV but they helped me realise the skills I had from being a full-time mum.

“I have told friends and family about it and told friends in other areas about the ones near them.”

Dave Cassie, 46, was also found work – at the very place the Job Junction was being held. Dave, of Brookside, a baker by trade who hails from Aberdeen, said: “My partner was poorly for five years and I couldn’t work. She got better and I started looking for a job.

“I came to Job Junction and they told me they were going to open a cafe at Brookside Community Centre, so I said I would give them a hand with it. When they said they were looking for a manager I applied for it and I got the job.

“I got a lot of satisfaction and help from Job Junction. I wasn’t great with computers and they helped me with that. They were fantastic. They couldn’t help me enough. I would say to other people ‘Make the most of Job Junction and keep going because you will get a job out of it. I am proof.

“The support is unbelievable.”

Telford has six Job Junctions – Brookside, Sutton Hill, Woodside. Wellington, Donnington and Dawley – which are run by Telford & Wrekin Council. They see an average of 240 people each week.

Marie Blake, a community learning leader in Brookside, believes they are providing a vital service.

She said: “We have weekly drop-in sessions on a Wednesday. People come in to access IT but also to get support with employment issues.

“We help with CVs and look at the type of jobs people want to do and look to see if they have the skills they need to do that.

“We are working in conjunction with Telford College and have an advisor here. We also get appointments from the job centre that come here. The main object is to educate. If people aren’t prepared for the modern workplace it can be a huge hindrance.

“We had a lot of people telling us they want cleaning jobs and so we set up a course with the family planning team and catering and cleaning. We have built a course around what people want and need.

“We also have employers coming to talk about vacancies that they have.”

Service users and advisors at Brookside Community Centre
Service users and advisors at Brookside Community Centre

The courses are run by people like community learning tutor Lucy Rouse.

She said: “The course has been put together to help people who wanted to go into domestic cleaning and care jobs.

“These two areas seem to overlap in many ways with things like health and safety and handling.

“We’ve had speakers in from private companies and the council to discuss opportunities and things like becoming self-employed. We’ve also had a speaker talking about voluntary work and the benefits of that and how that can open doors to other areas.

“The course has been designed around the needs of the people who come into the Job Junction. We are looking at other areas where we could do the same thing.

“We listen to the people looking for jobs to see what they want to be doing and provide the opportunity to get their foot through the door. We take feedback very seriously. We don’t want to waste people’s time by telling them things they don’t need to know. I base the course around what people want to know.”

The scheme in the area served by Shropshire Council came about as the local authority investigated a new way of working, known as “local commissioning”.

Church Stretton was chosen as the pilot area for commissioning, which involves the council working closely with communities to find out what is important to them to custom-built, as far as possible, to each community’s needs.

One person who has seen at first hand the good that the project in Church Stretton has done is Colette Cousins, who was temporarily out of work when she moved to Shropshire from Oxfordshire.

Although she did not find work through the scheme, she did witness its birth and is now in the final stages of becoming a mentor for others. She said: “I think it is a great thing that they are trying to do.

“The thing mentoring brings is support. I didn’t feel I needed help to find a job, but there is so much other stuff that goes on in the system and sometimes you feel so alone.

“People who have never worked or who have infrequently worked may see a mentor as more of a friend. It is someone outside of the system who can give them a little bit more time.”

George Candler, Shropshire Council’s director of commissioning, said: “We looked at the data in Church Stretton to understand where there were areas of demand and found there was a bit of a spike in terms of unemployment.”

Officials then started work with representatives from the JobCentre and the authority’s training arm, County Training to change the way things work.

Mr Candler said: “Under the existing model, someone will go to Shrewsbury every fortnight, sign on and then search for jobs.

“The first thing we did was to base our team in Church Stretton. We started working with a group of people who were out of work, which was 35 in total ranging from 18 to people in their late 50s/early 60s.

“We paired each of them with a colleague and started to work with them on a weekly basis to find out where they were in terms of getting back into work and to develop a personal plan for them.”

After eight weeks, 10 people had been found jobs, including one who had been out of work for nearly two years. The average cost of a person being out of work for a year is estimated at £10,000.

Mr Candler said: “We are now broadening the scope of that work. We are extending the period into November and we are also looking to broaden the reach and looking to start in Craven Arms and Wem.”

Comments for: "Councils aim to cut Shropshire unemployment with job junctions"

ph7

Fine, if your after a manual or minimum wage job. But where is the help for qualified people looking for a professional position. On my last visit to County training, I was told, "get the hell out of Shropshire because there are no jobs matching your experience or qualifications".

A scheme like this is going to be little help to the 1500 odd people who are about to be made redundant by Shropshire Council. What we need is for the Council to try and attract well paid professional jobs to the county instead of getting people jobs stacking shelves or serving cups of tea.

Steve

It's true though, if you want i well paid job that uses your qualifications then their right to say you won't find them in shropshire. They will be in the bigger cities a stones throw away from here. well paid jobs often means you have to travel further afield. this is fact and not just for the area of shropshire! deal with it

Dave

I'm not sure how 10 jobs here and a few more there is going reduce the Shropshire unemployment when 1500 t0 2000 jobs are to be lost at Shropshire Council by March 2014.

I know every little helps but how are you going to pair each unemployed person with a member of your team Mr Chandler.

I didn't know that there was so many vacant posts in the Craven Arms and Wem areas.

Will the money for all this training and job finding be coming from Central Government or is this another business plan that's not been thought through.

I'm sure those that are to be made redundant are looking forward to the new jobs!

eva land

“I’d never worked. I was a full-time mum.

She means she was an unpaid carer.

nothing is free

Re the first comment I think you are missing the point the aim is getting people off benefits and in to work it does not matter if the job is minimum wage or low paid , low skilled etc it does not matter what you do as long as it is a job of some sort and you are not a burden on the rest of the tax paying working public .

If in Shropshire which use to be and still is a low paid county their a few highly qualified roles with pay to match then indeed pack you bags and of you go.

Many of the jobs you mention at the council that will go very few are above the national average with regards pay and it is true like it or not many are over paid by 6-9k for the role they do compared to the private sector again these people will need to cut their cloth which many are doing already as these salaries will not be given in the private sector .

Their is nothing wrong with stacking shelves, serving tea or cleaning, unemployed and on benefits you have no choice or should not have , I have more respect for people who can get over themselves no matter what qualifications they have and adapt if out of work . I once listened to Duncan banatyne

nothing is free

Sorry cut off again

I once heard Duncan banantyne take issue with a uni grad who had been out of work for a year when the grad said "I aint working in mcdonalds flipping burgers" he was prepared to sit on his rear end claiming benefits and the refusal to work at mcdonalds was down to snob factor not waste qualifications as it ALWAYS IS WITH THESE PEOPLE hence why Mr B said he had more respect for the chap at mcdonalds atleast he had work ethic and .

ph7

Couldn't even finish your rant.

The point is this. For some, who are unskilled and unqualified, a basic service level job may beall they expect. For many others, such as myself, with a degree, post graduate and professional qualifications, twenty years experience in a profession, a mortgage and other bills to pay and no access to in work benefits, such a post neither meets my expectations or required income.

When it comes to a professional tasked with helping me find work advising me that there is no possibility of my gaining work in Shropshire and that it was best that I move, it hardly shows a healthy job market in Shropshire.

As for those being made redundant by the council, many will be professionally qualified and have higher education experience. They too need suitable alternative employment which will not be provided by serving cups of tea in a cafe.

steve

these people complaining about there qualifications, I have a degree, well i dnt work in my sector due to there being no jobs in shropshire, but doesnt stop me from working a minimum wage to pay my mortage. i work my arse of. just cause you have qualifications doesnt mean you will get a job that is well paid, noone has ever said you will most certainly get a well paid job becasue you have a degree!! people need to realise that these days you have to do anything and everything to even live.

my annoyance is this, i got made redundant yet still managed to get a job within a week of being lay off. with other interviews lined up, so how is it that people cannot get jobs. i have mates that have been to prison and have got jobs. in my opinion is it pure laziness that people do not have a job or that they actually want to sit spending everyone elses taxs, hence why the council have to cut back casue they are not getting the funding they used to, hense why the roads are so poor because council tax and road tax are proberly not going towards that but going to peoples pockets sitting on their arses.