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How to uncover jobs

Employability services can make a significant difference to a client's access to jobs: by uncovering vacancies that are not being advertised, by building strong relationships with employers, by helping clients spot possible opportunities hidden in the news, and helping them use their networks. In this section we explore what employability organisations can do to uncover jobs for clients, and how clients can be helped to find them for themselves.

Case Study: The West Wales Sole Trader Initiative

The Sole Trader Initiative (STI) was piloted in North West Wales in 1995 as a way of exploring ways in which very small businesses could be encouraged to recruit additional employees. It provided an experienced counsellor/mentor for microbusiness managers, helping them through the process of recruitment, including humanising the large bureaucracies they needed to deal with, helping them describe their needs clearly, and helping the business leader use the space created to develop new products or services and strengthen their marketing. We spent time on the ground with some of these counsellors and they were extremely dedicated people, working long hours, dropping in on their clients and providing a reassuring source of support, insight, information and contacts. The experience, knowledge and dedication of these counsellors was central to the success of the pilot.

A review of the initiative carried out by Rocket Science on behalf of Highlands and Islands Enterprise in 2000 identified the following findings and conclusions:

  • The Sole Trader Initiative is a business growth initiative led by the needs of individual micro-businesses. Despite this clear focus it has the potential to offer a remarkable range of benefits:
    • It helps micro-businesses to create new jobs, or at least accelerate their creation
    • People are employed on a more secure basis. This is because the employer has been through a thorough process of analysing and specifying skill requirements and putting in place all the appropriate steps to ensure a professional approach to recruitment and employment.
    • A high proportion of recruits had been long-term unemployed
    • Employment retention rates appeared to be very high
    • Employees are recruited to carry out a range of tasks, leading to enhanced employability
    • Over the long term, recruitment may have reduced the likelihood of a one man business closing at retrial and increased the likelihood of an effective succession, so securing local jobs and incomes
    • The jobs were often in small and dispersed communities where few alternative opportunities exist
  • The Initiative did not offer clients any additional sources of money. The difference it made was that:
    • It responded to the need of micro-business to recruit in order to expand: this is the marketing angel and it appeared to be powerful in terms of attracting clients who recognised this as a priority
    • It offered the time of a counsellor and behind them a network of individuals working in key organisations which were committed at the highest level to the success of the Initiative.
  • The initiative provides the basis for a model which could work in other similar areas: it provides a simple framework for supporting micro-businesses in a coherent way
  • The model was built on a strong partnership of organisations each of which has a strong commitment to the success of micro-businesses. The original STI brought together the FSB, banks and government agencies in a way which has promoted greater mutual understanding and respect.
  • There is no evidence that displacement is an issue. We were unable to find any examples of complaints by other businesses, or of examples of situations where a micro-business had recruited people from other micro-businesses to the detriment of the latter.
  • The model is capable of considerable enhancement which might include:
    • Linking to longer term workforce development and business development approaches
    • Developing a managed network between micro-business leaders
    • Enhancing scope among micro-businesses to recruit priority client groups and benefit recipients

The appeal of the approach is that:

  • It is driven by business needs.
  • It makes effective use of existing resources and support for small businesses.
  • It connects business growth with welfare to work.
  • It builds a powerful partnership for the long term benefit of small business owners.

The lessons are that the approach requires:

  • An overarching partnership of key organisations which are committed from the top.
  • strong focus on the specific business needs of each micro-business.
  • comprehensive local network of relevant organisations and key staff.
  • Experienced and committed business advisers who can fulfil the role of mentor.

Guide to Employing People which presents employing people as a positive action and guides business owners through its complexity.