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Section 6: Moving Clients into Work

Action Planning

Once barriers are identified action planning can take place to address barriers. Employability projects should have their own approaches to action planning but a useful template, developed by Bridges is available on the Employability in Scotland website.

This action planning template incorporates:

  • short and medium term goals;
  • actions required;
  • barriers and challenges;
  • who or what can help achieve the goals;
  • target date for action.
Action planning is a key element of Reach Community Health Project's Skills Development Path Training Programme. Many of their clients who have been out of the labour market for some time, need assistance to develop their capacity to self manage their employability. This can include how to apply for jobs, interview skills, understanding how to develop their skills and take advantage of opportunities. This needs to be underpinned by an action plan that raises confidence and self belief.  Following through on the action plan can be a way of developing self confidence as it helps clients to develop control over their life and increases motivation. 

Employability Skills Development

As we've seen from earlier sections, some clients may need their employability skills developed because they have little experience of the labour market.  Employment support programmes developed by Bridges such as Bridges Life Skills or Equipped for the Future help clients to develop these skills.  Examples of the worksheets and tools used in these courses are available to access on the Employability in Scotland website. These help clients reflect on past experience, qualifications and life events which can be used to identify transferrable skills. Bridges also use the reflection toolkit mentioned above for employability skills development. 

The links to these resources are given below.

Vocational Training  

Minority ethnic groups appear to be under-represented in some national training programmes and the national averages disguise wide variations in ethnic minority participation between areas in Scotland. Recent data from the Employability Fund shows that only around 2% of trainees are from minority ethnic groups although around 3.8% of the working age population are people from minority ethnic groups. 

Possible reasons for under-representation include the higher proportion of minority ethnic young people entering higher or further education - meaning fewer are eligible for training programmes. Also, since the provision of Modern Apprenticeships is concentrated in industries and occupations where minority ethnic people are less likely to be employed, fewer are likely to participate in them.

Employability services can encourage clients to enter vocational programmes. Action can include the following.

  • Addressing basic skills issues with clients.
  • During advice and guidance sessions, making them aware of all of the options on education and training available and referring them where necessary.
  • Supporting clients on education and training programmes.
  • Monitoring progression on programmes and addressing any issues arising. 

Some employability services have developed their own vocational training programmes targeted towards specific groups.  Targeting can allow more work to support the specific barriers some groups may have.  The example below shows how the programme was adapted to ensure Roma clients were able to achieve similar outcomes to other trainees.

The Govanhill Backcourt Initiative in Glasgow provides training and work experience in construction skills and horticulture. Trainees are with the project for 13 weeks during which they receive training, have work placements and one to one support to address any barriers to employment they may have.  Around a third of the trainees are from the Roma community.  During the project's first phase outcomes for the Roma trainees were poorer than for other trainees, so a number of modifications to the programme were made to improve outcomes.  These included dedicating two workers to work more intensively with the Roma participants as they required more support; providing more tailored ESOL support and working in partnership with Jobs & Business Glasgow which has a dedicated Roma employability service so that people were better prepared for joining the Initiative.  As a result of these changes more Roma clients are going into and sustaining employment.

Work Experience and Volunteering 

Work experience and volunteering can be a good way for people to develop employability skills when they have never been in the labour market or out of it for some time.  An example is shown below.   

The YCSA in Glasgow works with minority ethnic young people aged 16-25.  They link young people with employers to get voluntary and work experience.  Many of the young people they work with have experienced discrimination and this has affected their confidence about looking for work.  The placements help them to learn how to present themselves to employers and also develop work experience.  They provide training for employers to help them better support the young people during the work experience.  The training focuses on the benefits of taking on young people, sets out the business case for a diverse workforce and helps employers to see that it can be good for business.

It can be useful to explain the benefits of work placements or voluntary positions for clients if they have never taken part in placements before. Reach Community Health Project found some clients were not clear about the benefits of work experience and the project had to find ways of presenting the benefits of placements.  This information could include:

  • The purpose of the placement - as a way of developing an employability profile and gain a reference;
  • expectations about the placement, from both the client's and the employer's perspectives around what each will gain from the placement;
  • practical information such as the hours, who the client should report to, duties and skills to be developed during the placement.

Bridges Programmes have a guide to work placements which is available from the Bridges website.

Employer Engagement

Active employer engagement can be a successful way of assisting minority ethnic clients.  Engagement activity involves:

  • building sustainable relationships with employers;
  • facilitating the creation of work placements,
  • challenging negative employer perceptions of different client groups.

Employer engagement can be assisted by making the business case for a diverse workplace, which is now clearly established. Businesses which have a diverse workforce are more successful for a number of reasons:

  • They are more competitive - they are more likely to have a wider customer base, to recognise potential new markets, to develop more tailored services and to recruit from the widest possible talent pool.
  • They have better industrial relations - if they tackle discrimination they are likely to have other policies that support the workforce and encourage better relationships in the workplace. This means that they are likely to have better recruitment and retention, better staff morale, reduced absence and labour turnover. This, in turn means that they are likely to have higher levels of productivity.
  • Finally, the public image of businesses is an increasingly important factor in securing markets and being competitive. If businesses have a more diverse workforce then they are likely to have a better public image.

However, employability services also need to recognise the economic realities faced by local employers and target industries where there are likely to be entry level jobs and demand for labour.  Think about:

  • Which jobs can people fill given pre-employment support?
  •  Which employers are likely to provide opportunities for advancement from entry level to a better job?

The example below shows how employer engagement has proved to be an effective approach for one organisation working with minority ethnic clients.

Frae Fife have developed a network of contacts with private sector employers and voluntary organisations to organise work experience and volunteer placements for their clients. They also organise networking events with businesses to raise employers awareness of the barriers people from minority ethnic groups in the labour market face and how they can change their practice to increase applications from these groups.  Frae Fife also offer in work support to clients and employers to help sustain employment. They feel this is a very important aspect of their work and aim to more of this in the future.

Job Search Support

There is evidence of less favourable recruitment of people from ethnic minority backgrounds. For example, one research project found employers favoured applicants with white names compared to Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, Chinese and black Caribbean names at the job application stage.  Greater use of standard job application forms can help to mitigate this.  Employability practitioners need to be aware of the potential for this to happen.      

Interviews can be particularly problematic as there is evidence that people from ethnic minority groups can be disadvantaged because of culturally-specific practices in interviews. This means that job interviews create a linguistic penalty that arises because candidates do not conform to interviewers' expectations of how they should talk in interviews and many cultural assumptions are made while cultural differences are not taken into account.

This can be a problem for people whose first language is not English even if they are fluent.  Interviewers expect people to be able to talk about the job, the qualities they will bring to it in much more complex ways than the job demands so that there is a gap between the communicative demands of the interview and the communicative requirements of the job. To be successful in an interview it is not sufficient to speak English well, the candidate must also be able to meet these expectations. 

Employability projects need to prepare candidates for this and help clients perform well in interview. This needs to take more account of cultural factors - for example in some cultures, respect is shown through expressing humility - this can be hard to reconcile in an interview situation where the goal is to 'sell' yourself.  Interviewees will need help around:

  • the format of the interview;
  • what kind of answers are valued, what kind of language needs to be used etc. 
  • presenting him or herself well;
  • using the right kind of language expected in interviews;
  • being able to pick up on the hidden assumptions of interviews and produce the answers the interviewer is looking for, yet not come across as too 'scripted'; and
  • interacting well with the interviewer.
Further Information
Successful at Selection and FAQs is a useful DVD which covers the issues faced by ethnic minorities and which assists with preparation of people for interviews. It has been developed by King's College London's Department of Education and Professional Studies. Contact Melanie Cooke  for information about the DVD which can be copied.

In Work and After Care

People from ethnic minority groups can find it difficult to progress in the labour market and can be trapped in low wage jobs. There are different reasons for this including:

  • unequal access to opportunities for development;
  • not having enough information about training;
  • prejudice and stereotyping; and
  • under-recognition of skills and experience.

These factors can make it very difficult for people to progress in the labour market because they don't have equal access to opportunities.  People in this situation are also at risk of in-work poverty.   Ethnicity can be a major disadvantage at recruitment, promotion, training and retention stages - with workplace  culture affecting outcomes at all of these stages.

Much work focuses on making the business case for diversity.  Much more needs to be done to tackle informal workplace custom that contributes to unfair practice.  Employability projects may help through contacts and mediation with employers, because the support from the employer once a client has entered into employment is highly crucial. Support mechanisms within the workplace, such as mentoring, will help clients to sustain their employment, as well as support their progression.

For clients who need language support continued access to ESOL may help sustain employment. For some practice examples of workplace based learning see the ESOL Scotland website and also these specific case studies:

Section 6 - Side Picture

Key Points

1.  Supporting minority ethnic clients to develop their skills and to access vocational training and work experience opportunities will all be helpful to move clients closer to work.
2. People from minority ethnic groups are underrepresented in vocational training and need to be made aware of these options.
3. Work experience can offer a useful way of developing work readiness.
4. Good employer engagement can help reduce discrimination.
5. In work support can help clients progress in the labour market.