See Potential – Inspiring Stories

Maxine Taylor
By , - Responsible BusinessGovernment

Each of us has potential, but in order to realise it we sometimes need support. The Department for Work and Pension’s (DWP) See Potential campaign is all about encouraging employers to see potential within people regardless of their background.

I heard some inspiring stories at last month’s See Potential event. Both from people who had experienced discrimination when seeking employment, and from organisations that are trying to stop this from happening.

Experiencing barriers to employment

People from disadvantaged groups are often overlooked when applying for jobs. This could include people in long-term unemployment, recovering from addiction, with a criminal record, who have spent time in care or who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to employment and people from these groups often experience discrimination.

We heard an inspiring story from Si Richardson, one of our Fujitsu employees who told his story of looking for work as an ex-serviceman.

Si explained how he started his career in the British Army at just 16. Later in life Si found himself unemployed and experienced barriers when looking for employment – employers discriminated against him saying they were weary of his medical history.  Si had experienced psychological and physical injuries during his time in the army.

Si was referred to the Poppy Factory, an employment charity for veterans with health conditions or impairments. They helped get Si out of long term unemployment and into a job as a Fujitsu Engineer.

The Poppy Factory does an excellent job at fitting people into roles that will work for them, a role where they can realise their true potential.

What support is currently available for disadvantaged groups?

There are a number of charities who support people getting back into employment. The Clink Charity and the Nacro charity both support ex-offenders and work to reduce the reoffending rate.

Only 12% of Clink Charity graduates go on to reoffend, compared to the national average of 47%.

What really makes the work by Clink successful is that prisoners are supported both before and after release from prison. Prisoners near the end of their sentences are assigned a mentor and receive real work training to help them prepare for employment.

We heard examples of work taking place in the Clink restaurant – which is currently ranked the 5th top London restaurant on Trip Advisor!

The Nacro charity have identified how employers are struggling to understand the complex legislation that impacts the employment of ex-offenders. They want a dedicated support service to provide guidance when employing people from this group.

Nacro can help here. They have compiled a joint report with CIPD – Recruiting safely and fairly, a practical guide to employing ex-offenders. They also have a The Employer Advice Service which offers employers free and confidential advice.

What support is the Government providing?

The Minister for Employment, Priti Patel, explained how the See Potential campaign aims to overcome the big gulf between employers’ positive attitudes towards employing people from disadvantaged groups and the actual appointments they are making from these groups.

Our society cannot be strong as long as we have millions of people who are locked out of society and employment.

The Government has already helped over 2 million more people back into work, but it’s more important than ever for employers to think and act differently. The current labour market landscape means it is vital for businesses to cast their recruitment net as far and wide as possible.

The Minister invited the employers in the room to join us in supporting the See Potential campaign.

How can employers support See Potential?

There are many things employers can do to think differently about their approach to recruitment. Fujitsu CEO, Regina Moran, explained that it’s often at the start of a person’s working life when they need the most support.

At Fujitsu we are proud of our Service Desks in Manchester that work alongside Job Centre Plus to provide young people with work experience. At our Wakefield office we support ‘Wakefield Works’ which helps local unemployed people get back into work.

We are working with Brunel University to provide first year students from underrepresented groups, such as care leavers, paid work experience to help them get ‘work ready’. We also work with the Princes Trust, helping young people to improve their CVs and interview skills, and starting next week we’ll be running a “Get into Tech” programme for young people.

We also heard from large employer Carillion who are helping people from disadvantaged backgrounds get back into employment through their support for Business in the Community’s (BITC) Ready for Work programme.

Every £1 invested in Ready for Work, results in £3.12 value for society through reduced costs of homelessness, crime and benefits as well as increased tax contributions.

Job coaches are a key part of the Ready for Work programme, over 100 Carillion people volunteer. This has resulted in opportunities for personal and professional development for these employees.

Carillion is one of the largest work experience placement providers. Helen Jones, Director General Manager at Carillion, explained how rewarding it can be supporting someone on a work placement, helping them to get ready for the world of work. She encouraged employers to think about increasing the amount of placements they offer – something BITC can help with.

Having a job is about more than just earning money – it gives you a feeling of self-worth, you are contributing to society.

There is now an opportunity for employers to think and act differently about how they recruit, and the Government is here to help. Find out how your organisation can support the See Potential campaign.

Join the DWP’s See Potential group on LinkedIn to keep up to date with the latest updates.

Take a look at Regina Moran’s highlights from the See Potential Conference.

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