The Employment initiative “Let’s Work”, funded by the Social Investment Fund (SIF) under the Delivering Social Change framework, has helped 104 people gain full permanent employment. The programme, which commenced in October 2019, received £1.68m investment from SIF to help address employment related issues in areas of socio-economic need across Northern Ireland. The programme sought to widen access to jobs, improve skill levels and increase personal confidence.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic and many participating host businesses having to adapt their methods of working and some even closing their doors in 2020, 160 participants were placed and received on the job experience as well as access to a range of training relevant to their role. Participants from the top 10% or 20% socially disadvantaged areas including: Larne, Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey, Antrim, Coleraine, Magherafelt, Cookstown, Moyle and Ballymoney entered into paid employment placements.
85 host businesses took part in the project, offering placements were from varying sectors including; manufacturing, IT, hospitality, Health & Social Care, gaming design and construction. The placement opportunities were tailored and relevant to the chosen career path of each of the participants. Not only did 78% of participants remain in full time employment, amongst the 160 participants, over 438 qualifications were achieved including Customer Service, Mental Health, First Aid, Social Media, Copy Writing, Safeguarding, Forklift Training, and Debt Management. Additionally, many achieved training and mentoring to help them further their career prospects.
Carrickfergus Enterprise provided strategic leadership to the scheme and employability specialists, Network Personnel were responsible for the operational delivery of training and placement provision.
Welcoming the completion of the project, First Minister Arlene Foster said: “The Let’s Work project has had real and lasting benefits, not just for those involved but for our whole society. The results of the project speak for themselves which is all the more impressive given the obstacles it has faced. The project fits firmly within the vision of the Social Investment Fund which aims to make life better for people through social change.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “The success of the Let’s Work Project is a great example of what can be achieved when the Executive and the community and voluntary sector work together in partnership.” “Through collaboration from the early stages right through to delivery, communities and local people are now benefiting from key Social Investment Fund supported initiatives such as the Let’s Work Project, which provide vital community services and meet people’s needs.”
Manager of Carrickfergus Enterprise, Kelli McRoberts said: “We are very proud of what the programme has achieved, especially with the challenges of the past year. A number of placements had to be put on hold, however, the programme went back to full capacity in August 2020, thanks to the flexibility and support from the host businesses. The aim was to support the participants to gain skills and experience that would lead them into employment, and we are pleased to say that 82% of participants have gained employment from Let’s Work.
The participant feedback has been really encouraging, and it is reassuring to know that the Let’s Work scheme has made really positive changes to people’s lives. We have found that through collaboration, we are creating positive changes in employment mindset.”
Alex McKee, Operations Manager Network Personnel said “It’s fantastic to finish the project on such a high note. We are so delighted that, despite the challenges and uncertainty presented by the pandemic, Let’s Work was a resounding success. We thoroughly enjoyed working with all stakeholders, from participants to host employers and the Project board. We would like to wish all participants the very best in their future careers. Network Personnel is honoured to have played a part in making their job goals a reality for them”.
To mark the success of the programme, a video showcasing the key highlights of the project was recently launched and is accessible to view online on Carrickfergus Enterprise’s social media channels and the TEO website.