Research Summary Just the job? A research project into job brokerage provision in Camden, Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets, and the identification of good practice both regionally and nationally July 2004 CONTENTS 1. 1.1 1.2 1.3 2. 3. 4. 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 5. 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 5.9 5.10 5.11 6. Introduction Scope of report Review of previous research Definition of job brokerage Mapping of providers Establishing quality criteria for job brokerage activities Review of activities Detailed review of local activities Review of London activities Review of national activities Identification of good practice Development of overall strategy A demand-led approach Training and capacity building Staff competences Development of job brokerage networks Partnership working Work experience placements Contracts should include quality standards Developing a two tier approach Standardisation of definitions Standardisation of evidence requirements A range of outcomes Conclusions 3 3 3 3 4 5 6 6 6 6 6 7 7 8 8 9 9 10 10 11 11 12 12 13 Disclaimer This report was commissioned by the London Development Agency in May 2004 and undertaken by Tank Consulting. The views expressed in this research are those of the consultant and do not necessarily represent those of the London Development Agency. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the contents of the report are accurate, the London Development Agency does not accept responsibility for any inaccuracies in the data. 1. INTRODUCTION Tank was commissioned in December 2003 by the London Development Agency to undertake research around the current provision of job brokerage services in Camden, Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets. 1.1 Scope of the report The report sets out an analysis of current provision in the four boroughs. This includes an analysis of strengths and weaknesses of such provision as a whole in meeting the needs of jobseekers. The report also outlines a number of recommendations for how such provision might be improved, taking into account good practice across London and elsewhere in the country and suggests a way forward through a shared action plan. 1.2 Review of previous research An extensive review of existing research was conducted in order that we could identify areas of good practice and innovation and also begin to look at what measures could be taken to enhance existing provision in the area. We reviewed studies that had taken place both in the UK and the USA. 1.3 Definition of job brokerage Job brokerage can take many forms. It should be designed to meet a range of needs of a highly diverse group of clients. The only common denominator for the wide range of job brokerage that occurs is that it should lead to the client securing employment. The activity can be delivered by specialist agencies, training providers, voluntary organisations working with a particular client group, local authorities, and private organisations that are “feeding” particular industries. In general job brokerage activities can be divided into two main approaches: Figure 1: Approaches to job brokerage activities CLIENT-FACING WORK This includes advice, guidance and assessment as well as support with health issues, drug and alcohol counselling, training activity, housing assistance etc. EMPLOYER-FACING WORK This includes vacancy sourcing, human resource planning, detailed analysis of job roles and person specifications, matching clients to jobs, sifting applicants, interview assistance, testing, etc. 2. MAPPING OF PROVIDERS Questionnaires were sent to over 200 providers. This did not include statutory agencies (e.g. Jobcentreplus or Connexions as they were not within the scope of the research). There was a return rate of 21%. The conclusions drawn from this data relied on accurate self-reporting by providers, and were as follows. • There was not an equitable spread of services across all boroughs. • There are currently around 12,200 places for job brokerage clients across the sub-region. Some of these are aimed at specific client groups. • Only 60% of respondents completed the section of percentage of leavers into jobs. Achievement rates varied from 3% to 100% with an average (mean figure) of 42%. • Programmes that appeared to be accurately quoting the higher rates of achievement tended to be highly specialist and very small scale, or significantly linked to a high value training programme, e.g. an intermediate labour market • Unit costs were difficult to establish as only 25% of respondents provided any data. Costs varied between £100 to £5,000 per job achieved. When the highest and lowest costs were ignored the mean average cost was calculated at £1,610 per client. • 59% of organisations were funded by only one funding body, 28% by two bodies, 10% by three funders and only 3% by more than three funding bodies. • The largest funders were the LDA and/or Jobcentreplus who each funded 22% of organisations surveyed. • When asked what would improve their services the largest response (37%) was for an increase in funding. The next highest response (13%) was for more employers and for longer, more flexible contracting arrangements. 3. ESTABLISHING QUALITY CRITERIA FOR JOB BROKERAGE ACTIVITIES Given the varied nature of job brokerage activity and the fact that no benchmark of quality existed, a quality framework was developed following the identification of five main areas of activity used to help clients into work. This framework was agreed by the steering group for the project and used as the basis for research into provider effectiveness and quality. Figure 2 shows the framework for the structure. Each of the five main areas had a series of questions designed to find out both the nature of services offered and the extent to which they were “embedded” within the organisation. The framework was used when visiting service providers as a basis for questions and also observations. Figure 2: Outline of framework Job Brokerage Services General Work Experience Partnership Working with Employers Post -Employment Support Pre -Employment Support 4. REVIEW OF ACTIVITIES A cross section of 12 organisations was selected for detailed reviews using the quality framework. 4.1 Detailed review of local activities These organisations offered a range of activities and focus (e.g. specific client group) and also geographical location. Visits were structured around the job brokerage quality framework and meetings were held with senior staff, practioners and clients. Service delivery was observed and we reviewed relevant documentation including client files and paperwork. These reviews were used as a basis for the development of the overall shared action plan outlined in section 5. 4.2 Review of London activities In order to look at good practice and innovation in job brokerage we looked at provision within London that took place outside the designated four boroughs. In deciding which four organisations to visit we were keen to select a variety of provision that reflected the diversity of job brokerage activities and these included a geographically based initiative, an industry specific initiative, and also service delivery aimed at a specific client group. 4.3 Review of national activities In order to investigate good practice in job brokerage on a national level we undertook in-depth research at three locations, Liverpool, Glasgow, and Birmingham. It was decided to choose locations that could best mirror London in terms of demographics and regeneration need. We also wanted to look at projects that were thought to be innovative in some way. Visits took place over two or three days and included meetings with senior staff, practitioners, funding bodies, clients and employers. Service delivery was observed in all locations and relevant paperwork reviewed. 4.4 Identification of good practice Through the research undertaken both within London and also nationally good practice was identified in a number of key areas. This information has informed the action plan and will also lead to a good practice guide being developed for use in the future. This guide will be accompanied by a revised quality framework and used to assist organisations improve their service delivery. 5. DEVELOPMENT OF OVERALL STRATEGY Having completed the reviews of local providers and established elements of good practice and innovation elsewhere, we were able to develop suggestions for a local and regional shared action plan as follows. These have been divided into short term, medium term and long term priority areas. Short term priority area 5.1 A demand-led approach Job brokerage appears to deliver a higher number of job outputs when it is based on a demand led approach that offers services in a holistic way. This incorporates the following aspects: • excellent relationship with employers • interventions designed to meet the specific demands of employers • short vocationally specific training to meet person specifications • careful matching of candidates to job vacancies • work experience placements or work tasters that will help individuals compete more effectively for jobs by improving skills and confidence • strong culture of “reality feedback”. It also needs to incorporate the following aspects which are common to the client led approach: • good initial assessment of candidate needs • individually focused advice and guidance • specialist support to overcome particular barriers to employment. In many instances the services need to be delivered in a sector specific setting where the provider is working with certain industries or sectors. This ensures that staff are recruited with the necessary industry experience and that the organisation as a whole is geared towards meeting the needs of identified employers. Some providers may work with a spread of employers and therefore have dedicated sections or designated members of staff that will concentrate on working with specific sectors rather than the entire organisation. 5.2 Training and capacity building To further develop current job brokerage services and encourage the development of new services it is likely that training and capacity building of providers will be necessary. This could be delivered through a network and encouraged by funding bodies as a way of meeting contractual quality standards. The type of training and development needs identified by this research includes: • employment law • marketing • management information systems • equal opportunities and diversity • negotiation skills • interviewing skills • development of job descriptions and person specifications • health and safety. 5.3 Staff competences In reviewing the skills and experience required by providers that deliver job brokerage, few person specifications requested evidence of marketing competences, ability to build relationships with employers etc. and instead were interchangeable with specifications for jobs within the training and regeneration industry as a whole. The type of skills and experience that would benefit job brokerage services include the following: • ability to develop working relationships with employers, training providers and community support agencies • an understanding of the local labour market particularly as it relates to unemployment • a commitment to, and empathy with, assisting unemployed clients gain employment • marketing skills – including proactive approach to campaign development • HR and recruitment experience – preferably at both strategic and operational levels including an understanding of employment law and practices • highly developed communication skills – both written and oral • ability to work on own initiative to tight deadlines • experience of co-ordinating activities with external organisations • project management or development experience • excellent administration skills • ability to establish and maintain management information to monitor performance and set targets • experience of quality assurance systems • ability to work in a team. Where providers are offering services to a particular sector or client group there may be a need for a further skill set within the staff team e.g. knowledge about homelessness issues, industry terminology, mapping foreign qualifications, or skills shortages. However, the core skills will remain the same and these need to be developed within the job brokerage sector as a whole. Medium term priority area 5.4 Development of job brokerage networks The development of a job brokerage network across London or parts of London would assist providers and funding bodies in the development of services. Ideally, a network would be able to pool some resources in order that its members can operate more effectively. One area would be joint marketing to encourage employers to offer vacancies through the partnership. This would present employers with a unified service covering a wider range of clients and services. There would need to be strict protocols in place, for example, to ensure that the employers are presented with a unified service that draws on all member organisation services whilst not bombarding them with inappropriate candidates. There would need to be further research around the feasibility of such a network, particularly in terms of ownership, funding, activities, etc. A network would need to be funded on a long term basis and may need some initial investment before immediate benefits accrue. This could require a high level of commitment from funders and would need to be examined carefully. 5.5 Partnership working Providers should increase the amount of partnership work that is undertaken. These activities would take place on both a formal and informal basis, and could include the following activities: • cross-referrals of clients • sharing of employer vacancies • development of joint service delivery initiatives • joint marketing campaigns • sharing of good practice • assistance with setting up systems and procedures • joint staff training initiatives • development of a website. Such activities might provide a useful framework for the development of any future network of providers. Again, further work would need to be carried out to ascertain the likely benefits and ability of providers to work together. A useful first step would be to hold an event that brings the relevant stakeholders together to gain some consensus on a way forward. This would enable some debate around the more sensitive issues of partnership working in terms of output sharing, etc. 5.6 Work experience placements Our research showed that many providers were not offering placements as part of their services or where they were being offered the level of service was poor. As the client group has become increasingly “harder to help” over the last decade there is a need for this service to be available to help them into employment, through the acquisition of work related skills in the workplace. It is an alternative route to employment for long term unemployed clients and also another service that can be offered to employers who may prefer the low risk that a placement offers them. In order to encourage placement activity a network and staff training could support the development of capacity within providers. There may need to be funding initially to develop this service or alternatively some funding recognition for those providers that are able to offer this option to clients. 5.7 Contracts should include quality standards The inclusion of quality criteria within the funding contract would ensure that providers are clear about their obligations relating to service delivery. Part of this quality assurance should be the development of a self assessment culture including the compilation of self assessment reports and quality development plans. If quality standards are introduced by funders into the contracting phase funding bodies would need to plan how they will monitor providers through the funding period. A system of Contract Management that conducts quality audits would ensure that this happens but alongside this function it is recommended that the Contract Manager would also spread good practice and facilitate capacity building and organisational development. 5.8 Developing a two tier approach It is unlikely that one model of job brokerage delivery will meet the needs of all clients or employers, and that by attempting to offer the full range that the provision as a whole will be diluted or lose its specialisms. During this research we observed two main approaches to assisting clients into work: one was the “job club” model with clients using facilities to undertake independent job search, and the other was the model based on the high street recruitment agency. A large number of organisations were offering a hybrid of the two that attempted to have the strengths of each model. The “job club” approach tends to take a very client centred view with services being offered to the client in order that their skills can be developed so that they are able to secure employment themselves. These skills are likely to include interview skills training, development of CV etc, and clients are then encouraged to use these skills to compete in the open job market. The high street recruitment agency approach is a job matching service where vacancies are sourced using an employer-focused approach and then clients are matched to these vacancies based on their existing skills and experience. The tendency is for these vacancies to be low level or entry level in nature. Organisations using this approach will often also be able to offer clients some services and interventions but these will tend to be less generic and be designed to assist them into a specific vacancy. Funders need to recognise that it is likely that both models can operate effectively side by side, and may in fact work in synergy with each other. The target client group for both models will be different but will overlap significantly. Long term priority area 5.9 Standardisation of definitions One of the problems with trying to assess good practice in job brokerage is that it is difficult to measure performance levels as the definition of what constitutes a job differs from funding body to funding body. In order to ensure that job brokerage performance can be measured and that direct comparisons can be made between different programmes it is necessary to standardise the definition of what constitutes a job (e.g. number of hours per week). Such standardisation would need substantial effort on the part of funders and policy makers. 5.10 Standardisation of evidence requirements To compound the confusion over the definition of a job there is also a variety of job evidence requirements. This can range from a client giving the name and address of their employer to a provider and the job being claimed on the first day of employment, to funding being withheld until a client has been in employment for six months. Evidence requirements also vary in terms of documentary proof with some organisations having to get signed letters on headed paper from employers within a specified time frame and others needing only names and addresses of employers. This has obvious implications for cash flow and achievement rates and we therefore suggest common evidence requirements across funders. Again, this would need to work across main funding agencies and the associated policy makers. One way that job outcomes could be confirmed is by partnership working at a high level where confirmation is given that ex-clients are no longer signing on or alternatively are now paying National Insurance contributions. 5.11 A range of outcomes Currently most providers are only able to claim for full time jobs as an outcome. A range of outcomes would more accurately reflect the wide range of needs of the target client group. The research has found that initial assessment and action planning tends to be a weakness across most providers. This may be because for most providers there is only one funded outcome and that they therefore are not able to tailor services to deliver what would be the best outcome for the client. By having a range of funded outcomes a provider would be expected to show how services are designed to deliver a targeted outcome through interventions and continuous review. Action plans and milestones would therefore need to be more robust than they currently are in order to justify offering a range of outcomes. 6. CONCLUSIONS As unemployment is now at its lowest level for over 20 years it is important to ensure that job brokerage services are able to meet the changing needs of employers and job seekers. Traditionally regeneration policies have concentrated on the development of skills in order that individuals excluded from the labour market are assisted in securing work. Contracts have been awarded to providers to improve the employability of individuals by teaching new vocational skills, removing barriers to work (e.g. homelessness, drug dependency etc) and by assisting them gain job search skills. The role of employers was often ignored in this as it was felt that their intervention occurred primarily at the point of recruitment. It is now increasingly recognised that employer involvement is crucial and that their needs have to be addressed for any initiative to be successful. In practice this may mean developing training programmes to deliver industry-led qualifications and skills, though for job brokerage providers their involvement is likely to take many forms. The challenge is for job brokerage providers to meet employer needs by offering a “demand led” approach to provision which will in turn ensure that they are also meeting the various needs of their clients. Alongside the challenges facing providers are the challenges facing funding bodies. The wide variety of funding streams with differing demands on providers would benefit from being brought together through the standardisation of common elements. It is recognised that this will entail funding bodies working together in the design of project specifications and that this will not happen overnight. However, the benefits accruing from a set of common definitions and requirements should lead to improved delivery and outcomes. These recommendations are being considered by the LDA in partnership with strategic bodies and local providers in order to develop a shared action plan. In order to meet the goals of the short term action areas and some of those contained within the medium term strategy areas the LDA and partners are developing a good practice guide for providers, a toolkit for providers which will assist them in the self-assessment of their service delivery, and will also hold an event for the promotion of good practice in job brokerage.