Skip to main content

Increasing skills and supporting employment opportunities

October 2014

A number of Big Local areas are telling us that increasing skills and supporting employment opportunities are issues they want to address. This is a big challenge, although there are examples where local initiatives are succeeding in improving employment opportunities, supporting people to develop their skills and experience and helping them to find work.

Big Local areas are devising ways to tackle skills and employment. We're seeing areas organising job clubs, apprenticeships, developing relationships with local employers and using Star People to set up new ventures. If you'd like to share what you're doing in your area on this subject please do get in touch.

This newsletter also tells you about future learning and networking events. You can see what's coming up and find out information on the left.

Debbie Ladds, chief executive

Workers co-operative - People's Empowerment Alliance of Custom House (PEACH)

A worker co-operative is owned and self-managed by its workers. All employees are members of the co-op and all have an equal vote in decisions about the business. There are no outsiders making decisions about how it's run, or taking a share of the profits. The workers are the shareholders, so all profit is shared between them.

PEACH decided they needed a co-op for Custom House because they know that in the area there is a high number of people of working age who are claiming benefits including job seekers allowance. There are lots of people with no qualifications and many of the low skilled and minimum waged are on zero hour contracts.

By creating a workers' co-op PEACH aim to create secure, sustainable work and training with wages at least equal to the London Living Wage of £8.80 per hour. Flexible working opportunities also allow those with parenting responsibilities to find work during the hours they’re available. PEACH say:

"By taking people off of benefits and out of zero hour contracts the members gain a wage that enables them to live rather than to exist. They become owners in their own business and start to take control over their lives instead of being controlled by the system."

The PEACH Big Local plan has set out ways of supporting the co-op, including funding co-op members to develop the skills they need to take the project forwards such as IT, accounting and tendering.

Joe Richards, a resident who is leading the project adds:

"At first the concept seemed a bit daunting but through my research I’ve found out some co-ops have been going for 20-30 years which has been really inspiring. Most of the things I’ve learnt have been from other workers’ co-ops."

Read more about PEACH's co-operative in this case study or on their website.

Working with local employers - Wormholt and White City Big Local

Photo: Wormholt and White City Twitter

When the Big Local group in Wormholt and White City looked at the area they discovered a high number of people with no qualifications who aren't in training or employment. However, there are employment opportunities locally and more likely to develop. Wormholt and White City wants to provide residents with a real chance of competing for these. In fact their Big Local plan is all about helping people to develop skills and gain employment. They say:

"We aim to create a confident and vibrant community that benefits from the wealth and success of the West London economy."

Wormholt and White City is close to Westfield, a very large shopping centre. However, residents said that they struggle to submit application forms within the often short deadlines. The Big Local partnership which is keen to see retail, facilities and marketing opportunities open up for residents approached Westfield about this. Through discussions they've agreed that residents in the area will now have longer notice for employment opportunities.

The Big Local partnership is also keen to make sure that everyone has access to online facilities, since 98% of Westfield jobs are advertised solely online.

In August this year a new Sainsbury's opened in the area. The store has chosen Wormholt and White City Big Local as its local charity to support. Les Jackson, a resident involved in Big Local says:

“It’s great that Sainsbury’s has engaged with the local community and supported us, as well as recruiting local people.”

Store manager Thevarajah Kandeeban adds:

“I did some research into the area and found out about Big Local and I really like the projects they are developing. Having local staff is not just about it being easier to get to work – we want the jobs to go to the local community as well.”

Read more about what this Big Local area is doing around skills and employment.

Just Straight Talk - social enterprise in East Coseley Big Local

Just Straight Talk was set up by Kate Beale and Chris Campbell (above) in East Coseley to support young people in the local community into training, education, voluntary work and employment. It began as an unusual partnership between a church and a pub, starting out with information, advice and guidance sessions in one of the pub rooms. 

Just Straight Talk has received Star People ‘build it’ and ‘do it’ awards to develop their social enterprise. After sharing their journey and the outcomes of their work so far with Dudley Council, they received two years of council funding in 2014.

Watch this video to hear the story of Just Straight Talk and how they work with young people in the area.

Hearing from experience at our learning and networking event

Earlier this year in March we held a learning and networking event for people in Big Local areas on tackling unemployment and creating jobs.

During the event we heard from some small local initiatives and projects that have been successful in helping people to gain skills and find employment. You can read about these local approaches in this blog.

Hastings Works

David Hinton started Hastings Works as a social enterprise in April 2013 to ensure people in Hastings have access to good, locally informed employment advice. David received a Big Local Star People 'Do it' award of £5,000 to help with initial start-up costs. The organisation now has a shop on Hastings High Street with two training rooms and 22 computers. About 100 people come through its doors each day.

David's professional background is in HR and recruitment. He worked first of all for colleges and then for a Work Programme contractor. He saw a gap in the market for a coaching, employment matching and support service to the Hastings area. He secured preferential rates for high street premises and developed relationships with local employers and support services to deliver a 'one stop shop' to support people back to work, addressing whatever concerns and barriers that person brings.

You can find out more about Hastings Works on

HOME, Helen Owen Marketing Enterprises

HOME, Helen Owen Marketing Enterprises is a not-for-profit marketing company that supports young people and those that have been unemployed for a long period of time to engage in their local community by helping local community groups, agencies and charities with their marketing.

At the event in March Helen told us that early on she realised that although she had the marketing knowledge to start a new business, she didn’t have the IT expertise needed to respond to her clients’ needs. The small scale of the business meant she couldn’t afford to pay someone with those skills. So she recruited four volunteers who had those skills but wanted to gain further experience. In return for their skills she ensured they got the opportunity to use professional software and work on projects that would help them to find work. Since then more volunteers have come on board and many have gone on to get a job. At the event, Jane Simmons explained how after five years of being unemployed she started volunteering with HOME. As a result of the experience, she gained the confidence to get back into work. Now using her language skills she’s starting her own enterprise teaching English.

Find out more on

Training for Work in Communities (TWICS)

TWICS is an organisation in Southampton and the locally trusted organisation for SO18 Big Local in Harefield, Midanbury and Townhill Park. TWICS helps people to gain new skills and qualifications so they can make a positive contribution to their communities.

Barbara Hancock from TWICS explained that when people talked about issues and priorities for their area as part of Big Local conversations, they didn't mention jobs and employment. However, when the Big Local group and TWICS looked closely at the priorities people described, it was clear that employment was a theme that ran through all of them.

Does employment feature in your Big Local priorities or plan? If it doesn’t, can you see a link between your priorities and jobs and employment? Or can you see how employment opportunities could come out of your plan?

Living wage week is coming!

Living wage week 2014, a UK-wide celebration of the living wage and living wage employers, will take place on 2 - 8 November 2014.

Local Trust supports and has been accredited as a London living wage employer. The living wage is an hourly rate set independently and updated annually. It’s calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK and employers choose to pay this on a voluntary basis. The Living Wage Foundation website has information on the benefits of the living wage as well as how to become a living wage employer.

View the full original newsletter


We’re making changes to the website. Your feedback will help us improve the site. Your feedback: