Many economically inactive and unemployed individuals are not actively engaged with employability services. This may be because they are not interested in working, have had poor experiences of employability services in the past, or are unaware of the range of services available.
To overcome this lack of engagement, a number of mechanisms exist to reach out to individuals and engage them in employability services. These include:
- Pro-active marketing. Employability organisations use a variety of media to raise awareness of their services and attract individuals to use their services. These include newspaper adverts and features, radio advertising, leaflet drops, open days, and presence at local events.
- Effective location of services. To increase awareness of employability services, it helps to be visible and easily accessible. This means locating services where the public will notice the organisation. Locating on a high street or in a busy shopping centre have proved effective means of getting people to walk off the street.
- Community outreach workers. Some employability organisations use community outreach workers to get the message out about the range of services available locally and encourage people to attend these. This involves the workers knocking on people's doors, attending local groups and events, and becoming known and trusted in the local area. To be effective, the outreach worker must have excellent communication skills, the ability to build trust with people, good local knowledge, and be persistent.
- Partnership working with community organisations. Rather than reaching out directly to the individual, employability services can increase awareness of their services among other local services and organisations. These might include GPs, social work, schools, community learning, housing associations, childcare groups, sports and hobby associations. By working in partnership with these organisations, individuals can be supported and referred to employability services. Key to this is working closely with frontline staff of other services who are in direct contact with potential clients.
- Co-location of services. By having different services in the same premises, partnership working and referrals typically increase because the potential obstacles of making a phone call or making the journey to another organisation are removed as they are located in the same place.
The effectiveness of an outreach approach requires identifying who the target client group - and then developing an approach that is more likely to appeal to their needs. Two possible ways of targeting the client group is to take an area-based approach or a client group-based approach. However, in practice there is often significant overlap between area-based approaches and client group approaches for the simple reason that client groups are often geographically concentrated.
Some of the most successful outreach approaches have had a local, area-based focus. The advantages of this are:
- The problem becomes manageable in scale and this can be strongly motivating to agencies and their staff.
- The approach is locally committed and seen as being part of and 'for' the locality. This can be reflected in a locally relevant name.
- Staff can build strong working relationships with the frontline staff of other local organisations.
- The service can be tailored to the local profile of unemployed/inactive people and to the needs of local employers.
- The service is highly accessible to most local residents
- It maximises word of mouth referrals.
- Successes are easily linked to the local service and help to 'spread the word'.
Client Group-Based Approaches
There are a number of employability projects that are aimed at specific client groups - e.g. lone parents, ethnic minorities, young people who are not in employmnet, education or training - and it is important that outreach approaches are designed to appeal to the specific needs and interests. Good practice dictates the need to:
- Be clear about who the target group is and understand its scale and distribution. In other words, how many potential clients are they and where are they?
- Work with members/leaders within this group to design a service which is accessible and relevant to their needs.
- Understand the skills, experience, support and training needs of the group as well as the social and community norms by which they live.
- Work closely with organisations and services that the client group attend and build strong working relationships with frontline staff in these organisations.
- Potentially train members of the client group to engage with other individuals. They will more likely to be sensitive to client needs, committed to supporting clients and trusted by the clients.
- Ensure that the support for each individual is designed to meet their agreed needs and objectives.