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Big fall in jobless since Council business team set up

It is all very well for Councils to talk about prioritising particular areas of work, but the real test comes with the amount of resource they dedicate to a particular issue and the real measures they put in place.

At a time when local Government is coping with unprecedented cuts to its funding, it is easy to imagine that services are receiving less money right across the board, but in Waltham Forest the Council has prioritised the need to help its residents find employment.

Last year the Council established its new Business, Employment and Skills unit, putting money into all three areas. Concerted efforts have been made to increase the level of interaction the Council has with local businesses, what it does to help its residents gain necessary training, and ultimately what it does to help residents into work.

And the results are proving to make a real difference to people in Waltham Forest looking for work, as Councillor Mark Rusling, Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Corporate Resources, explains.

“In terms of overall reductions in unemployment levels over the period since the Business, Employment and Skills Team was set up, we can point to a general fall of 25 per cent in Job Seekers Allowance claimants and a specific fall of 29 per cent in youth unemployment.

“That puts us amongst the top ten performing boroughs in London on overall falls in unemployment during the period March to December 2013 and I think that has a lot to do with the hard work we have been undertaking. In particular the close working partnership with Job Centre Plus has made a real difference.”

The Council set up a highly effective partnership with Job Centre Plus and other local employment support and training providers. This led to the establishment of a Youth Employment Hub – the first of its kind in the whole of England – and this has helped hundreds of local people find work or training.

One of the key pieces of work the Council has been undertaking has been making the links with businesses opening up in the borough. When a new Tesco opened up in Highams Park the Council worked closely to ensure as many of the posts as possible went to people living in Waltham Forest.

“By printing a code in Waltham Forest News, local residents could be assured an interview, ultimately resulting in 75 Waltham Forest residents securing employment with Tesco,” explained Cllr Rusling.

“We worked really closely with Waltham Forest College and the Job Centre, and our Skills unit were on hand to help individuals meet the requirements necessary to put them in the running for the positions.

“Just before Christmas a Planning Application for a new Morrisons store in Walthamstow was approved and we know it will bring with it around 450 new jobs, around 300 within the new supermarket. I anticipate we can work to see up to three-quarters of those jobs go to local people by using the experience and knowledge we have in the new team.”

The Business, Employment and Skills team also target jobs that are associated with big regeneration and development schemes, such as the new cinema development under construction in the centre of Walthamstow. This has seen a number of local apprentices employed on site.

“As an authority we take on apprentices every year and encourage our contractors, such as J. B. Riney who look after our highways, to follow suit,” said Cllr Rusling.

“Now our Business, Employment and Skills unit is up and running and making an impact, I am sure there are plenty more opportunities out there to maximise the chances for our residents to find work.”

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