· 2 min read · Features

Don't knock JobCentre Plus - it has done a good job over the last 100 years

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The centenary of what has now become Jobcentre Plus, coinciding with the worst recession since the second world war, is the perfect moment to reflect on the contribution made by our job centres in helping the unemployed get back to work.

The infrastructure has come a long way since February 1910, when Herbert Asquith's government opened 62 labour exchanges across the country, one of the first official national recruitment and benefit systems of its kind in the world. 

Jobcentre Plus may have received its fair share of criticism over the years, but with 750 offices and approximately 78,000 employees, the system has grown to become a vital national service, providing local access to all those who need it. Thousands of people have benefited through being provided with job opportunities and advice and training on a whole range of employment issues, from writing a CV through to preparing for an interview, as well as access to essential benefits and training.

A relatively recent innovation is the opening of job centres to collaborate directly with the private employment sector, providing another route for people to find jobs. 

Randstad Inhouse Services has had a relationship with Jobcentre Plus since its inception in 2000. Randstad Inhouse Services works on blue-chip client sites, mostly in manufacturing, logistics and pharmaceuticals, providing temporary staff to provide the optimal, flexible workforce. Collaborating with Jobcentre Plus has been extremely beneficial not only because it has helped us provide an additional source of candidates to clients, but also through schemes such as the Local Employment Partnerships (LEP). The LEP is an initiative, launched by the Government in 2007 that aims to get 250,000 disadvantaged people off benefits back into work by 2010. In January 2008 Randstad signed an LEP nationally.

The success stories of the scheme are many, but for me this one is most pertinent: A jobseeker named Daryll had been claiming benefits for 10 years and was homeless. He joined the local LEP scheme, worked with the Business Action on homelessness and completed a pre-employment training scheme. This was followed by a two-week work trial at a confectionery manufacturer, which was successful and resulted in an offer as a production operative. Daryll was entered into the Yorkshire and Humber LEP awards in 2009. He won the Getting Back to Work Award and the overall Outstanding Achievement Award. For him, however, the greatest satisfaction came from entering permanent employment.

Our inhouse teams have worked hard developing relationships with local Jobcentre Plusaccount managers and, as a result, since January 2008 we have successfully placed 500 long-term unemployed people into work. Those already in employment through the scheme also have a chance to develop their skills. We have run a Level 2 Warehouse and Distribution NVQ, and are about to launch a Skills for Life course consisting of basic numeracy and literacy within the workplace, to ensure that candidates can continue to expand their skills.

Many of our candidates start out as temporary workers. The value of temporary positions cannot be  underestimated as not only do they provide people with greater financial security and reduce the burden of unemployment on the state, but it often leads to permanent work. In fact, around a third of temporary workers have typically been able to use their experience to generate permanent work. Furthermore, temporary assignments can be an ideal lifestyle choice for many people that need to juggle other major commitments. 

Throughout our long partnership, I have witnessed a constant striving by Jobcentre Plus to improve its services and their delivery. For employers this has meant a continuous availability of good quality and prepared candidates and a more streamlined recruitment process. Jobcentre Plus has become a vital part of our society. It has played a fundamental role in the lives of many unemployed people and is a core resource for many employers. Here's to the next 100 years.

Lisa Gainsford is director, Randstad Inhouse Services

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