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Bringing families and employers together

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In Middlesbrough we recently organised a very successful job fair which brought together 12 local employers, various training providers and more than 200 benefit claimants with complex needs. As a result, 18 people have completed a bespoke plan for how they will find work, 31 people are now in training, 16 had a job interview and 8 got a job.

Although it was a lot of work, it really paid off and we are planning to hold another event this Spring and we think it is something partners will be keen to continue to do even without the support of the Troubled Families Programme.

Why we did it

We are a small team of 2 Troubled Families Employment Advisers working hard with colleagues to support hundreds of families with complex needs into work, particularly the 50% of families who have a health problem and are on Employment Support Allowance (ESA). Of those families on the programme in Middlesbrough, 40% are ESA claimants and 42% are on income support.

More information about the role of Troubled Families Employment Advisers (TFEA's) can be found here.

We came up with idea of organising an employer event so we could reach as many ESA claimants as possible at one time. We also knew that, because these claimants have often been out of work for a long time and often lack confidence in writing CVs or job applications, a face-to-face event might be more attractive to them. This presented a rare opportunity for individuals to meet and engage with employers to help sell themselves as potential employees.

Getting employers involved

Local employers are increasingly keen to have a diverse workforce and so we made them aware that this event would be an opportunity for them to meet people with disabilities and long term health problems who are keen to find out about jobs which are available.

We also made sure we had employers who had roles which were appropriate for someone who may not have been in work for a long time or who might not have a high level of skills.

Getting families involved

As well as some general advertising – including plugging the event on local radio, creating flyers / posters and placing adverts in local newspapers – we contacted all the families on the Troubled Families Programme in our area in order to target the hardest to reach families. We also made sure family keyworkers, Jobcentre Plus colleagues, and other partners such as local schools, GP surgeries and social housing providers were aware of the event so they could promote it to their tenants, parents, patients and service users.

We also tried to incentivise attendance for example, through holding a raffle on the day – the prizes for which were offered by the host hotel as support-in-kind.

On the day

More than 200 people attended the event - a huge success - and each of the employers gave a short 5 minute description of their company and the roles which were available.

The buzz in the room was absolutely amazing and you really saw how people grew in confidence while they were there. At the start, you could see that people felt a bit intimidated, but after they’d heard from the employers, people were queuing up and clamouring to speak to the employers to find out more.

 5 Top tips

For anybody thinking of organising a similar event, we have five top tips:

  1. The venue is really important – it needs to be easily accessible for your families and in a central location which is easy to find. We were initially offered an upstairs room in a hotel, but we persuaded them to hold it in the main foyer so that people were able to find it easily.
  2. Identify an employer with lots of vacancies to be your headline act – once you’ve got them on board other local employers are much more interested because they don’t want to miss out.
  3. In contrast to other more mainstream job fairs, it really helped organising a bespoke event primarily for this customer group. The commonality of experience between attendees allowed for all to feel welcome and ‘in a similar boat’ which in-turn allowed for clients to ease into the day, share experiences and support one another in seeking new opportunities.
  4. Don’t be afraid to speak to the venue, employers, training providers or partner agencies about what they might be able to offer by way of support-in-kind. This may present a few key offers which will help to sell the event.
  5. In organising the event, try to meet with as many employers and training providers as possible face-to-face. This personal touch will be key in establishing a meaningful relationship with local partners both for the event to be held and longer-term.

If you'd like to find out more about this please get in contact, or we'd be really keen to hear what you think by leaving a comment below.

Steve Fox, Troubled Families Employment Adviser, DWP.

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