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The case for putting jobs within better reach

February 15th 2021

In the latest of our transforming Wales series, Helen Cunningham writes about what the next Senedd and Government should do to better put jobs within reach, especially for those furthest from them

School children walking up stairs

How much are jobs within reach, and who are they in reach for? This was a question we considered carefully when putting together our Transforming Wales series going into the 2021 Senedd elections. The coronavirus pandemic presents a whole new raft of challenges for the world of work. But even prior to it, there was and remains, a strong case for supporting people into work in new and better ways.

Responding to circumstances

There are some groups for whom work is not currently easily accessible. As we heard from Disability Wales in our recent webinar, disabled people face additional barriers to accessing and staying in the labour market, as do some women and some minority groups.  Reasonable adjustments, jobs that take account of people’s personal circumstances and even specially created jobs can make a marked difference in supporting people furthest away from the labour market into it. The ability to work from home is the most requested reasonable adjustment by disabled people, but we know that prior to the pandemic particularly, it wasn’t always a request that was actioned. That’s why we think there should be “job agreements” established with employer representatives to ensure reasonable adjustments are made to jobs on offer.

Establishment of specialist sector training centres will help build the skills we need in Wales for the future but they can also offer vital pre-employment training for people who have been out of work for six months or more. This, combined with work placements and guaranteed job interviews can create a more inclusive labour market in which more people can participated and be supported into work. Recognising that those furthest away from work often need extra and sometimes very specific support, we advocate specialist job find services that understand and respond to specific needs.

A young person’s guarantee

Young people are another group that are at risk of being particularly hard it by the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, including in terms of unemployment and economic inactivity. Having meaningful work or training can be critical in a young person’s long-term prospects.  That’s why we advocate a young person’s guarantee for anyone aged between 16 and 24 who has left education. The guarantee would include a broadened range of vocational options in further education and traineeships. It would require increasing the traineeship allowance to £45 per week for the engagement and Level 1 phases. The Jobs Growth Wales programme is also an important tool that should be expanded much more given its good track record in providing placements. It could increase not just the number but also the type of placements on offer and target them especially at places with low participation by local employers. We also believe that for those young people aged 16 to 18 that opt to remain in learning, a new Learning Allowance covering meals, transport and equipment costs could make a real difference to young people on low incomes.

Ensuring young people have a range of options, pathways and support whether they opt for education, training or work, can help protect them from the generational scaring that they are currently at a heightened risk of. By putting jobs within better reach for those furthest from the labour market, we can better draw on the talents, skills and contributions of more people, increasing prosperity in the process.

Helen Cunningham is policy and research officer at the Bevan Foundation

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