Residents from different backgrounds in St Helens Borough will receive all the support they need to access employment and training opportunities after nearly £4m in government funding was secured to deliver a number of ambitious projects.
At its meeting this afternoon (Wednesday 12 January) our Labour Cabinet accepted £744,695 from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority – as part of the government’s UK Community Renewal Fund – to launch St Helens Pathways to Employment, a new initiative led by the council which looks to support at least 610 residents, as well as a number of local business and organisations.
By working with a range of partners and council services – including St Helens Mind, and Teardrops – to reach people with complex needs, the main purpose of St Helens Pathway to Employment is to make the entry route easier for those wanting to access employment, education, and training opportunities.
The project will also work closely with the council’s Ways to Work programme which has received a funding boost after Cabinet also accepted £1.9m from the Combined Authority through European Social Fund and Youth Employment Initiative Funding, to keep the service – which has engaged with more than 2,600 residents since its launch in 2016 – running until the end of 2023.
Following the success of Ways to Work to date, a dedicated walk-in careers centre opened in St Helens Town Centre in June 2021 to offer a one-stop shop to support local people through mentoring, coaching, advice, guidance, and job searching – with a similar facility expected to open in Earlestown in early Spring.
One person who has already benefitted from the programme is single mum of three Gemma who contacted the service with no real focus on the area of work she wanted to move into.
After some initial meetings and discussions, Gemma decided that an admin role would be an area of work that she would like to pursue but didn’t have any prior experience or the relevant qualifications.
Not to be defeated, Gemma’s Ways to Work advisor managed to negotiate a six-week placement to build up her CV with local housing provider, Torus, who were so happy with Gemma’s progress after four-weeks that they encouraged her to apply for a job that was coming up.
“The Ways to Work team provide you with such good advice and really make you think about making the right decisions for yourself – they don’t pressure you into certain opportunities,” said Gemma. “I got help from the Ways to Work team with the (job) application and they also helped me with interview techniques and advice. I was able to get the job (with Torus) and started in November 2020, which is amazing to achieve so soon after receiving support. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Meanwhile, St Helens Chamber has been allocated £629,747 from the Liverpool City Region, as part of the government’s UK Community Renewal Fund, to launch Clean, Green and Advanced Manufacturing Skills for the Future – with local training provider, Kickstart2Employment Ltd also awarded £622,482 to lead a Licence to Work scheme.
The Clean, Green and Advanced Manufacturing Skills for the Future programme will engage with local businesses, colleges, universities, training providers and schools, and other partners and stakeholders, to discover how best to upskill the current workforce to ensure the local economy has the skills needed to create clean and green growth in our area, further strengthening advanced manufacturing sectors. The project will also inspire future generations to see how they can gain careers in this growing sector, informing them about the opportunities available and inspiring them to pursue higher levels of skills training to provide a future workforce.
Welcoming the reports, Cllr Kate Groucutt – Labour’s Cabinet member for Education, Skills and Business – said: “I was very proud to bring to Cabinet today two reports outlining investment totalling nearly £4million in employment support and job creation for residents of our borough.
Supporting residents to get into employment or training, and progressing to skilled and secure jobs, is one of our key objectives as a Labour-run council. I don’t need to convince any Labour supporters that work is one of the pillars of a good life, and a strong community.
It gives people a sense of pride, of achievement, supports good mental and physical health and is essential for avoiding poverty, now and in the future.
But our community has been let down and left behind by nearly 12 years of Tory governments. A lack of investment, too little funding for skills and education, the rise in insecure and low wage jobs leading to soaring in work poverty, and economic uncertainty from the chaotic exit from the European Union, which has hampered growth.
We had a decade of economic failure and growing inequality even before the pandemic hit. But despite all that, we were growing. St Helens and the Liverpool City Region were catching up with the rest of England on a range of indicators, and indeed leading the world in key sectors. Then covid-19 hit.
We know that during the first wave of the covid pandemic, our community was hit hard. Not just with the sheer level of illness and deaths, but in the economic impact.
Nearly 1500 more people in our borough are claiming unemployment benefits now, compared to the start of the pandemic.
Our employment rate dropped from 73.9% in March 2020 to 72.1% in June 2021. Economic inactivity rose nearly 3 percentage points
Behind each one of these figures is a person, a family, a parent. It is up to us to support each of them to achieve their aspirations.
That’s why it’s great news that around £2m Community Renewal Funding that has been secured for the Borough, through the hard work and collaboration of a wide range of partners. I would particularly like to thank and congratulate St Helens Chamber of Commerce and Kickstart 2 Employment who will also be leading projects, and the long list of partners in the report who will be supporting the delivery.
Our services won’t give up on anyone, and the Pathways to Employment project allows us to target that support even more carefully, and address some of the specific barriers that people face.
Through this project we will invest in local businesses to help them create jobs, we will support the community and third sector to develop volunteering opportunities as a first step on the path to employment and finally we will invest into skills to ensure the St Helens workforce is ready for the opportunities of the future.
Specifically, the project will seek to support at least 610 St Helens residents over the delivery period as well as supporting over 100 local business and nearly 150 organisations, including the voluntary sector.
With delivery before June 2022 I’m confident that the Community Renewal Fund will help to ensure the borough’s workforce and organisations are ready for the exciting opportunities that are coming through our regeneration and growth plans.
We have also secured the future of our excellent Ways to Work service until December 2023 by successfully bidding for additional £1.960m of funding which will be matched by the £660,000 of the Council’s own investment.
The council’s Ways to Work Programme has engaged with over 2,600 residents and progressed over 1,200 residents into employment, education or training.
I’m incredibly proud of the direct positive impacts that employment and training initiatives like our Ways to Work programme have had on assisting out of work residents, and there are many real-life examples like the case studies contained within the report.
Just last week I received this feedback from a resident, whose husband had been supported to make a job application, and with interview preparation:
“He has been out of work ill for many years so even getting him there wasn’t easy but the staff were incredible. He already has a keyworker. It’s a brilliant service.”
So, I’m delighted that our support offer will be extended.
I would like to thank the team and our partners who provide their services through the one-stop shop at the Ways to Work Hub in St Helens. This centre has been a great success, and we look forward to opening a similar service in Earlestown very soon.
I encourage anyone looking for employment or training opportunities to contact the team and take the first step to an exciting and successful future.
I would like to make one further point, which is about the process and bureaucratic burden associated with projects like these. It is incredibly frustrating that we are forced to bid for projects like these, going up against our neighbouring boroughs. Surely with the level of need in our community these programmes should be rolled out automatically? Like the New Deal programmes under the last Labour governments which did so much to tackle joblessness.
Instead, officer time and the time of our partners, is spent jumping through hoops to secure funding. And we’ll have to do it all again in a year or two. We need sustainable, long-term programmes to support our residents, a point that was recently made to Ministers by our MP Conor McGinn.”
For more information on the Ways to Work programme, visit www.sthelens.gov.uk/business/ways-to-work, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01744 676131.
You can also visit the Ways to Work hub, located in Church Square Shopping Centre, St Helens Town Centre, open Monday to Friday from 9:00am-5:00pm.