The "New Normal" at the DWP
Sheila and Eileen report...
Wendy Mangan from the Dept of Work and Pensions in York was talking to us at the same time last year on Zoom about her role as School and Employer Advisor with her main focus at that time being on 16 – 24 year olds seeking employment.
We welcomed her again, meeting her face to face, on December 3rd , to update us on the current situation regarding the various Government initiatives put in place at that time, to support these young people. To quote Wendy from last year, she expected “A new normal to emerge from the changing situation” - and she was right!!!!
Her own role has changed and she is now York and North Yorkshire Employer and Partnership Manager. Before telling us about her new role, she updated us on the current situation including some of the initiatives implemented in 2020/21
The first priority is to get customers back into the Job Centres. Rather unexpectedly York now has so many vacancies and there are challenges filling these vacancies and the Unemployment Register is lower than pre-Covid. She frankly said that the DWP did not see this coming.
There are a myriad of reasons for this:-
Some people have taken stock of their work life balance and are choosing to do different things or in a different way, some taking early retirement: much of the International workforce has been lost (because of Brexit?) with many workers returning to their homeland; a surge of people wanting to start their own business. The unemployment Register consists of a good percentage of people needing specific support to overcome barriers and are therefore not yet work ready. On a positive note, many employers are actually asking candidates at interview what hours they would like to work – they are learning to manage staff differently and care for the well-being of staff.
Wendy (second left) with Eileen, Sheila and President David
The Kickstart Programme has had 100,00 young people through it nationally and in York has had great support from companies such as LNER and Portakabin; it has been extended to March 2022. External contractors such as Recruitment Consultancies have been contracted to offer CV prep and mock interviews and there are a number of other initiatives with the DWP working alongside employers to prepare candidates for the workplace. Many are short sharp programmes ranging from half day to 3 weeks depending on the sector.
Wendy very honestly said that young people don’t read newspapers/ limited use of Twitter now/don’t use LinkedIn and that the DWP is not allowed to use social media such as Facebook, but this was being reviewed and it is hoped will become a medium to contact young people in due course.
What is clear is that the DWP has had to think on its feet, within Government parameters, in a very diverse and challenging way to respond to the needs of employers and employees. This certainly appears to be the ‘New Normal’.