The lack of employment opportunities remains a problem in North Edinburgh, where unemployment figures remain stubbornly high. A conference held in North Edinburgh Arts Centre last week looked at what is being done to improve the life chances of people struggling to gain employment in Forth.
The city council recently introduced a new Integrated Employability Service (IES). The IES is set out in the Council’s new employability commissioning strategy and refocuses council investment on four priority areas: young people, early intervention to prevent future long-term unemployment, support for regeneration areas and action to reduce low pay.
There’s a lot of jargon and strange language used – hubs, strategic skills pipelines, sustained outcomes and gateways – but put simply IES will establish a clear local service framework to better align services and make it easier for those seeking information about work to get the appropriate support and advice. The IES will evolve over the next three years.
City council Employability Service official Brian Martin (pictured above)told around thirty delegates: “What we had before was a lot of money scattered around hither and thither, with no one department having overall responsibility for employability money. That’s changed, and we’re starting to work better together; aligning better with the national agencies and improving our communications. There’s a recognition that we need to be much more pro-active but we are also realistic – we can work with agencies to supply training opportunities but if there are no jobs it becomes meaningless for participants. What we need is early warnings from potential employers – what they are planning and what skills their workforce will need. The sooner we have this information, the more likely it is we ca have people ‘job ready’ when these opportunities arise”.
The forthcoming 21st Century Homes redevelopment in Pennywell and a possible hotel and leisure complex at Crewe Toll have been identified as two potential employment opportunities for local people, and others have been earmarked.
Along with WEACT, Forth Sector and Volunteer Centre Edinburgh, local employment agency Community Renewal was part of the Stevenson Consortium which successfully bid for the citywide Employment Services Contract. The new service started on 1 May and is delivered from ‘hubs’ in Sighthill, the Community Renewal office in Muirhouse and Haywired in Craigmillar with an additional outreach service in Gilmerton.
Community Renewal’s Nigel Green (pictured above) explained how the new consortium works and went on to outline the various ways the partnership supports local people in their search for work – through referrals to the hubs and also through outreach work at a wide range of locations.
“It is early days for the consortium but we are pleased with how things have progressed so far”, he said. “Community Renewal is already quite well-known in North Edinburgh but we are now covering a much wider area with a much bigger client base. That presents new challenges, but the important thing for all of us is to make sure that the support for the client is there when they need it.”
Closing the meeting, Forth Neighbourhood Partnership convener Councillor Cammy Day said: “It’s clear that there is a lot of work going on to improve the employability chances of local people, and the challenge for us is just how to get that word out into the wider community. People need to know what support is available and we may try to do this through a wider, community conference type event.”