Supporting people into work during a pandemic

By Phil Miles, Director of Clarion Futures


25 02 2021

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During the coronavirus outbreak, our lives have changed in ways we could never have imagined.  Amid fears of a double-dip recession and rising unemployment, it would be easy to assume that the likelihood of finding a job at the moment would be limited.

However, for those committed to finding work and with the right support in place, there are opportunities out there. Each year, we support thousands of people into work through Clarion Futures, the charitable foundation of Clarion Housing Group. Our dedicated national team provides assistance with everything from vocational training and work placements to apprenticeships, help with travel and childcare costs, and business start-up support.

When the first national lockdown began back in March 2020, we moved quickly to a remote service with our employment advisers working from home and providing support over the phone or online rather than face-to-face. As well as individual sessions, we’re running virtual training courses and job clubs, which aren’t just about finding work, but are also about sharing experiences and facilitating social interaction
which can be just as important.

We’ve always offered online training courses to help residents improve their employment prospects, but we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of people taking part since restrictions on movement were imposed. Courses that would normally be classroom-based have been adapted and we’re now offering dozens of online courses covering subjects including retail, construction and digital skills. An ever-changing external environment has meant that we’ve had to adapt at pace to make sure people have the best possible chance of success in our ‘new normal’. Being interviewed via video rather than face-to-face, for example, presents a whole new set of challenges, so we’ve created guidance so that people are confident with the format and able to present themselves in the best possible way.

Many of the people we’ve supported have taken up roles directly linked to the COVID-19 crisis such as manning the NHS 111 call centre and working at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to deal with the high volume of new Universal Credit claims.

Whilst some jobs including key entry level roles in retail and hospitality have disappeared, possibly forever, as a result of the pandemic, other sectors are experiencing growth.

Whilst some jobs including key entry level roles in retail and hospitality have disappeared, possibly forever, as a result of the pandemic, other sectors are experiencing growth. That meant shifting our focus, recruiting for roles such as supermarket delivery and in-store roles, food production and cleaning, as well as providing opportunities for people to retrain and look at different career options.

Alongside this, young people have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic and so we’re proud to be leading the Kickstart Housing Partnership: a consortium of 59 members that will provide more than 800 new six-month job placement for unemployed 16-24 year-olds across England and Wales. At Clarion, we’ll be directly employing 301 young people in a wide range of roles, with Clarion Futures providing in-work support and training throughout the process, helping them to develop basic work skills and access additional opportunities.

Despite the doom and gloom, there are jobs out there and whilst the effects of the pandemic continue to be felt, we’ll carry on doing all we can to support our residents into work and transform lives and communities.

By Phil Miles, Director of Clarion Futures