One hundred and twenty long term unemployed people are now in a new job thanks to a forward-looking three year jobs programme in South Belfast funded by the Social Investment Fund (SIF) under the Delivering Social Change framework.
EmployAbility South has helped find jobs for people who have been unable to find work because of low educational attainment, disability and health issues, lack of experience and other factors.
More than 500 people took part in the programme – with many leaving with either full-time employment, increased skills, mentoring support or work experience.
As the project finishes this month (March 2018), the organisation that delivered the programme, GEMS NI will continue to seek new funding to help support more people and give them the hope of a new chance in life.
EmployAbility South Programme manager Stephen Atkinson said they had more than doubled their jobs’ target and they now have a waiting list of employers seeking people for placement.
“We set out with a target of getting 50 people into work and have absolutely surpassed our expectations. Our clients have had 216 work placements and attained 1,000 plus qualifications; many are people who have in the past had barriers to employment so this is a significant achievement. Seventy per cent of people with a work placement ended up getting employment because of the qualifications, education and skills they received.”
The success of the project is due to the extra support and mentoring individuals received, he explained.
“By offering assistance with childcare and transport, this programme was much more accessible for people on benefits. It made going on a work placement affordable. In addition, we spent a great deal of time working with individuals, assessing their needs and skills and developing their confidence to get into the workplace. Then we worked with them to find a job that they were best suited to,” he said.
One successful area was childcare training. Of the 25+ participants who received qualifications in this discipline, 16 to date have secured post programme employment.
Mr Atkinson added: “They had the opportunity of six month’s work placement along with childcare training one day a week, leading to NVQ Level 2 qualifications. They were learning, earning and we were assisting with their transport and childcare costs. They were also meeting a need as there is a shortage of childcare staff in Northern Ireland.”
The programme officially winds up at the end of March and included a special celebration event on March 15 at the Wellington Park Hotel, one of the employers that participated in the programme. The hotel offered three work placements and employed two people.
Jamie Annet who now has a full time job at the Wellington Park Hotel as a result of taking part in the programme said the decision to participate had changed his life.
He said: “After leaving college I spent an entire year applying for jobs – I must have put in over a hundred applications. It was such a low point in my life, I was really feeling depressed, sitting around the house doing nothing. EmployAbility South gave me the chance to build up my skills and self-confidence. They re-worked my CV, I did two qualifications and they helped focus my job hunt. My three month placement has turned into a full time job and I have recently been promoted to supervisor.”
Participating employers came from the private, public and voluntary sectors. One of the companies offering placements and providing employment was Usel (Ulster Supported Employment Ltd) a social enterprise based in Cambrai Street.
Usel took on 15 participants and recruiting eight of them for full time positions. Chief Executive Bill Atkinson said: “Usel were delighted to work in partnership with the EmployAbility South team. Over the last year we have developed a strategic partnership that has allowed us to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes to support people into employment particularly those with a disability or health condition. Championing ability is at the core of everything we do and therefore to have provided a significant number of sustainable jobs in partnership with EmployAbility South has been an extremely positive outcome”.
A spokesperson from The Executive Office said, “This project underpins what the Social Investment Fund set out to do; improve people’s lives. With seventy per cent of people in a work placement securing permanent employment and over a thousand qualifications achieved, it has empowered local people to change their lives for the better. Through the Social Investment Fund, the NI Executive invested £2.2 million in this project and it is great to see how this has really benefitted those most in need across South Belfast”