Tower Hamlets employment – an obvious mismatch and how WorkPath is tackling this

 In Blog, CEO's blog

It was the launch of Tower Hamlets WorkPath last week and a mammoth turn out from everyone involved in employment and skills in east London – with the highlight being presentations to the brand ambassadors, celebrating their own personal success stories. WorkPath is a new initiative designed to help Tower Hamlets residents get into work and benefit from the opportunities available in the borough and across London.

What makes WorkPath a little different is the concept of every individual having their own pathway into work – and that the support for each should be suitably tailored to their needs. Some people don’t need much more than information about the jobs available. Some people are much further away from getting work and may need to develop skills, deal with employability issues or tackle other barriers such as childcare. The partners involved in WorkPath will bring their particular expertise to each individual pathway as needed. It’s a great approach that recognises the full range of services already available, and makes best use of existing resources.

In the run up to the launch I was looking at some facts about employment in Tower Hamlets which make for interesting reading. Firstly, Tower Hamlets is lucky in that there are 272,000 jobs in the borough – more than the working age population. That must mean plenty of opportunities? But only 15% of the jobs in the borough are currently filled by TH residents. Add to that the fact that employment rates although very much improved on ten years ago, still lag behind those of the rest of the country and unemployment rates are higher than London and England.

At the same time employers are reporting skills gaps even though the proportion of Tower Hamlets young people qualified at degree level is way above the rate for London and England. Sadly, Tower Hamlets graduates are more likely to be unemployed.

There’s obviously a mismatch. There is a pool of willing and qualified talent, but it is not finding its way into the jobs which are available, and that is holding back productivity and social mobility.

It might be because people have the wrong skills for the jobs on offer; they might be unprepared for the world of work; or it might be other barriers – such as a lack of family networks and connections.

On this last point, the report last month by Baroness MacGregor Smith tackling race in the workplace highlighted the business case for diversity in the workforce. A workforce which more accurately reflected the population as a whole would generate an annual boost to the economy of £24bn.

Getting to grips with all of these issues will require some pretty strong common purpose and collaboration between the partners involved in supporting paths into employment in Tower Hamlets. Here are some things we could do as a partnership:

– Work hard with the widest possible range of organisations to bring forward a strong flow of candidates
– Get employers more closely engaged in simply telling all the providers what they need
– Make sure local residents are aware of the breadth of opportunities that are available
– Have a shared view with employers about the standard of employability they are looking for – and then we all make sure the candidates are up to that standard
– Share information including candidate information

It’s a big challenge and we have all been involved in ambitious partnerships before – but that doesn’t make it any less of an important mission today and every now and then it is important to refresh how things work and to say “Come on, we can do better than this”. I look forward to WorkPath and the next round of personal success stories.

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