Agreement with Jobcentre plus to tackle unemployment in Thurrock

AN education and support campaign launched yesterday will equip local people with the skills and confidence to fill thousands of new jobs planned for the borough by 2021.

Thurrock Council is joining forces with Jobcentreplus and two Work Programme providers to tackle unemployment in the borough in a coordinated way. It will particularly focus on people who find it most difficult to get work.

The partners’ progress and effectiveness will be measured by hard facts such as cutting the number of local people receiving Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) from 3085 in May to 2600 by next March. To ensure that young people in particular benefit from the scheme, the agreement signed this week aims to reduce the number of 18-24 year olds receiving JSA from 760 to fewer than 600 during the same period.

The plan’s practical steps for achieving those targets include:

Helping people with affordable childcare

Work with people who find it particularly difficult to get a job – such as the long term unemployed, people with disabilities and carers

Provide local people looking for work with the computer skills to search for jobs online

Supporting employers so they can recruit local candidates with the right skills.

Thurrock Council leader Cllr John Kent said local businesses and the major new employers arriving in the borough have been involved in drawing up the agreement.

“Some business people have told us they are struggling to recruit locally because many of our residents don’t have the skills they are looking for or a solid history of work. Our children would not forgive us if the thousands of jobs created at massive new projects such as London Gateway and Thames Enterprise Park go to people outside the borough when many Thurrock residents yearn to learn and work.”

The growth strategy agreed by Thurrock Council and its partners focusses on six ‘growth hubs’. It aims to deliver major projects such as the DP World developments and a major film studio at Purfleet while also supporting existing businesses of all sizes.

Cllr Kent suggested that a skilled, enthusiastic workforce is crucial to attracting future investment.

“This sort of agreement is not only good news for local people and for businesses already established in Thurrock. It is a virtuous circle because employers are increasingly choosing to base their operations in areas where local people have high skill levels.”

He pointed to the role Thurrock Council played in working with Thames Enterprise Park to identify the skills it will need in coming years. The council then helped South Essex College reach an agreement with the University of Northampton to provide further and higher education courses that will help local students gain those skills.

In the agreement with Jobcentreplus, the council has pledged to continue to emphasise the need to recruit local labour and provide apprenticeships or other training in its own contracts. Cllr Kent pointed to the council’s five year, £68m Transforming Homes project as an example of how this approach is already working in Thurrock. It created more than 30 opportunities for individuals to begin a career in construction or return to work in its first year.

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