Agenda item

Skills and Employment Strategy - One Year On

Contact for information: Alison May, Assistant Director of Skills and Employment, amay@lambeth.gov.uk

Minutes:

The Chair expressed concern at the absence of Cllr Jacqui Dyer, the Cabinet member responsible for employment and skills, and in her absence that neither of the co-Directors for Sustainable Growth & Opportunity were present

 

Alison May, Assistant Director, Skills and Employment, introduced the report, stating that:

·         The Strategy was published in November 2020, formed part of the Economic Resilience Strategy, and aimed to address both the impact of Covid-19 and the long-term economic challenges facing the borough.

·         There were multiple sources of funding for Skills and Employment, with significant amounts of Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy (NCIL) being used this year.

·         The long-term challenges of the Strategy included maximising opportunities and addressing inequalities in the labour market.

 

The Committee then heard from witnesses.

 

Grace English, co-CEO, High Trees, addressed the Committee, raising the following points:

·         High Trees was a Community Development Trust based in Tulse Hill which provided a range of integrated services across welfare, children and young people, and employment and training. It had a contract with the Council worth approximately £300,000 per year to provide employment and skills support for 500 learners.

·         A range of accredited and non-accredited courses were provided, including ESOL, basic IT courses and courses to support people into work. 

·         These courses formed a key part of engagement with residents, as people often attended a course and then accessed further support from High Trees.  It would be significantly more difficult to provide such a wide range of support without the adult education offer.

·         High Trees worked with other services across the community to ensure residents could access the most appropriate support.

 

Giovanni Dyke, who had participated in an employment programme run by Lambeth Made, then addressed the Committee, stating that:

·         He had attended a summer course on e-commerce, where he created a website to sell clothes and accessories.  It had taught him how to establish and run a business, which had helped him to get a job as a content creator.

·         During the programme he found a part-time job, and Lambeth Made had been flexible to ensure he could fit his studies around work.

·         Giovanni had found out about the programme through the Lambeth Made Instagram account.

·         After the course finished, Lambeth Made continued to support him, such as by having a post-programme interview.  He would recommend the programme as it had helped him progress in his desired career.

 

Officers and witnesses then provided the following information in response to questions from Members:

·         Training providers were assessed and evaluated at least three times per year.  KPIs, and data such as attendance and learner outcomes were used to ensure value for money was achieved.  As well as a self-assessment from the provider, learners were also asked for feedback.  The quality of teaching and learning was assessed both formally and informally, and CPD was provided for tutors and support staff.

·         The main benchmark for skills and employment programmes was the number of learners entering work, although different courses had different target cohorts, and therefore different expectations of outcomes.  Many people who were furthest from employment would need more support or multiple courses before being ready to start work.

·         There had been cases where funding to providers had been stopped as a result of performance reviews.

·         At its most recent self-assessment, the Adult Education team had judged its performance to be ‘good’ rather than ‘outstanding’ due to pockets of weaker performance such as in-work training.  This was mostly due to Covid-19 and a plan was in place to address this.

·         Steps 2 Success, a programme exclusively for care leavers, was one of the best-performing programmes.  Participants had to be ready to enter long-term employment, and received one-to-one support from an employment consultant that continued for six months after the end of the programme.  The programme had strong links particularly with the Civil Service, with 11 participants having received job offers within the last year.

·         A major reason for the worse performance in apprenticeships was the reluctance for businesses, particularly small businesses, to take on the risk of an apprenticeship at a time of significant uncertainty.  Apprenticeship levy funding was being transferred to participating businesses to make apprenticeships more appealing.

·         Recent migrants often first accessed ESOL courses, and would then find out about other services, such as around employment and welfare advice.  Providers such as High Trees would signpost residents to other services when appropriate and had good relationships with organisations across the borough.

·         The entire Employment and Skills Programme was currently being evaluated, and officers would provide the specifications of the review to Committee Members.

·         The data on the employment rate of Black residents was concerning.  Analysis was needed on the current programme offer and outcomes, as well as information on the sectors that employed the largest numbers of Black residents.  This would be monitored by the Skills and Employment Board.

·         Youth Hubs were funded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), with stipulations on their operation, so the majority of referrals came from Job Centres, rather than the Council.

·         The programme with Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) had been unsuccessful, and officers had worked to assess why.  The programme had started in February 2020, had to be paused due to lockdown and even after resuming was affected by the uncertainty and subsequent lockdowns.  The programme was currently closed, but would be remodelled with a view to relaunch in the future.

·         Some industries, such as hospitality, had issues of people having unrealistic views of the types of jobs available and a perception that it was not an area with long-term employment options.

·         Officers worked with children’s centres to ensure learners had access to a creche in order to enable parents to participate in programmes.  The Connecting Communities programme had a budget to provide childcare for lone parents.

·         All programmes had outcomes-based KPIs, including the percentage of participants entering employment.  Different programmes would have different targets; the rapid response programme for people who lost their job during the pandemic would expect higher numbers of people finding jobs than an ESOL course.  Officers could provide data on the percentage of participants entering employment by individual programme to the Committee.

·         There was a need to strengthen links between the Employment and Skills team and schools, both mainstream and special schools.  A new Careers Strategy was in development which would cover primary school through to adulthood and would complement the Skills and Employment Strategy.

·         Community engagement and communications were a key focus, particularly in relation to engaging with young people.  Officers used social media to publicise new programmes, as well as attending Youth Hubs, schools, and working with the Youth Offending Service.

 

RESOLVED:

1.    That the Committee be provided with the full evaluation of the Skills and Employment Programme.

2.    That the findings of the review of the South London BID Recruitment Service be shared with the Committee and be used to inform future, more strategic programmes.

3.    That vulnerable groups, particularly Black, Asian and Multi-Ethnic people, at risk of falling out of employment be identified with a view of helping them return to work, including the aftercare provided after the end of programmes.

4.    That programmes be designed with flexibility, particularly for parents and carers, such as the use of flexible hours, subsidised childcare and the consideration of a four-day week pilot.

5.    That the work between schools and Employment and Skills continue, and that the Careers Strategy be shared with the Committee.

6.    That social media messaging and promotion of programmes, particularly those aimed at young people, be continued and improved.

7.    That the role of Youth Hubs be reviewed for their effectiveness in helping young people into work.

8.    That the value for money of grants to external organisations be properly assessed, with clear benchmarks for each programme.

9.    That care leavers continue to be prioritised in being prepared for work, considering the additional challenges faced.

10.That as far as possible, migrants be identified to ensure they can be well-informed of their rights and the support available in a systematic manner.

Supporting documents: