The New Deal is a flagship policy of this Government and is nothing less than a national crusade – government, business, the public sector and individuals working in partnership to give unemployed people a chance to find a job.
Launched nationally in April 1998, the New Deal has made a positive difference to people’s lives by helping nearly 155,000 young unemployed people into work. The impact of the programme is further reflected in the fall of 60% in total youth unemployment since 1997.
The role of employers is crucial to the success of the initiative. Nearly 60,000 employers have signed up to the New Deal since it started and I am very pleased that the engineering industry, which is crucial for our economic growth, has played such an active part. Nearly one in ten of the young people who have started employment through the New Deal has done so within engineering.
John Rivers, Rolls-Royce director of human resources, stresses the importance of forming strong partnerships with other employers: `Ours was one of the first companies to sign up to the New Deal and we have been particularly active in supporting the work of the New Deal Employers’ Coalition in south Derbyshire, where the initiative has had a big impact.’
With more than 80,000 engineering job vacancies notified to the Employment Service between January and March this year, it is important that we strengthen this partnership for the mutual benefit of employers and the unemployed alike. On the one hand, unemployed people can have the opportunity for greater independence through a career in the engineering industry and on the other the New Deal can help employers to address their recruitment needs.
As an employer there are many benefits and reasons to be involved with New Deal. At the simplest level, you get help with recruitment – help in finding committed and motivated people who are keen to work and suited to your business. I meet many young people on the programme and am always encouraged by the enthusiasm and motivation they show in their efforts to boost their employability.
Because New Deal candidates are selected according to their skills and matched appropriately to vacancies within industry, employers can use New Deal as an introductory period for a Modern Apprenticeship or other recognised training within the industry.
Employers have total control over the selection of prospective employees and can also take advantage of a short risk-free period of up to three weeks called a `work trial’. Offering choice and flexibility, the work trial gives employers and prospective employees the chance to make sure that the right person is matched to the right job.
In addition to recruitment support, if the job qualifies as a subsidised New Deal vacancy, employers receive a weekly subsidy of £60 for 18-24 year-olds and £75 for people aged over 25. Employers employing young people also receive a £750 grant towards a structured training programme for them.
Following the initial recruitment phase, one of the key successes of the initiative is the way in which employers and New Deal personal advisers continue to work together to help employees develop. For many of the New Deal employees it will be the first time that anyone has shown a personal interest in their development and sat down with them to check on their progress.
Val Thomas, employee resources manager from north west engineering company BICC General Cables, says: `The support we get from the New Deal personal advisers has been superb – they help us monitor the training programmes to ensure the New Dealers get the maximum benefit.’
And for many engineering firms the relationship doesn’t end there. In many cases the programme has enabled companies to develop their businesses in directions they would not otherwise have taken. Val Thomas again: `New Deal helped us set up an entirely new part of BICC General in Leigh – our fine wires division. Out of 24 employees in the new division, 12 were trained through New Deal, jobs we would not have been able to offer without the support from the initiative.’
The engineering sector deserves applause for its support of New Deal and the successes achieved. In an industry that employs 1.8 million people it is vital we continue to work together to help people to become financially independent.
Tessa Jowell is minister for employment, welfare to work and equal opportunities. To find out more about the New Deal call the information line on 0845 606 2626. The line is open 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week. Alternatively, call into your local Jobcentre or visit the New Deal website at: www.newdeal.gov.uk.