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Regeneration Areas and Barriers to Employment - Research Findings

DescriptionThe research explores the evidence on the aspirations and insularity of local residents, and on the links between qualifications, training and employability.
ISBN0 7480 6958 5
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateDecember 29, 1998
Development Department Research Programme Research Findings No. 48 (1998)
Regeneration Areas and Barriers to Employment

Training and Employment Research Unit, University of Glasgow

ISBN 0-7480-6958-5Publisher The Scottish OfficePrice £5.00
A central element in the strategy for reducing unemployment in Scotland's 'New Life' Partnership areas is the delivery of employment and training services to raise the employability of local residents. However, concerns have been expressed that the low aspirations and limited travel horizons of the unemployed in the Partnership areas restrict the effectiveness of these programmes. The research was commissioned to explore the evidence on the aspirations and insularity of local residents, and on the links between qualifications, training and employability. The findings will inform the Partnership's ongoing activities in the implementation of their employment and training strategies, and be of use to other regeneration initiatives trying to raise employability.
Main Findings
  • Most people had worked outside the Partnership area in the past, and were still generally prepared to do this. However, there is some resistance to travelling out of the area for training.
  • The interaction of travel costs, low pay and part-time work was a constraint on preparedness to travel out of the area for work.
  • There was a consensus among local residents and employers in the wider labour market that stigmatisation of their areas by employers was a major obstacle to finding work.
  • For most participants, training exerts a significant positive impact on their attitudes, aspirations and expectations towards the labour market.
  • For many, raised aspirations and expectations are associated with increases in employability.
  • Trainees gaining vocational and educational qualifications were more likely than the uncertificated to be in a job six months after completing training.
  • Generally, post-training outcomes were poor insofar as around half never found work, and one in seven secured a job but re-entered unemployment. A third of the jobs found involved temporary contracts.
  • The success rate (measured by getting people into jobs) varied greatly across training courses, with European Social Fund supported programmes achieving much better results than the mainstream programme for the unemployed, Training for Work.
Key Issues
The study researched a range of important questions central to the sustainability of the regeneration process:
  • what are the barriers to securing continuing reductions in unemployment in the three Partnership areas?
  • to what extent is the existing range of employment and training projects successful in making secure links between Partnership residents and employment?
  • what are the main ingredients of a 'good practice' approach to enhancing the employability of the residents of regeneration areas?
The research was carried out on the Castlemilk, Ferguslie Park and Wester Hailes Partnership areas. A range of research methods were deployed, including:
  • discussions with key players and training providers in each area, supplemented by statistical material from their databases and monitoring reports.
  • surveys of employers in the wider urban labour market areas within which Castlemilk, Ferguslie Park and Wester Hailes are located, as well as local unemployed people and former trainees.
Are Limited Travel Horizons a Problem?
Labour market insularity was not found to be a significant problem. The evidence to support this includes:
  • the high proportion who have worked outside the Partnership areas in the past.
  • the low proportion saying they were unprepared to work outside of their area now.
  • the low incidence of transport problems as a reason for leaving jobs.
  • the lack of evidence on more deeply embedded forms of insularity, such as lack of confidence in working outside the area.
However, there is a potentially strong interaction between a number of factors which, as a set, constrain the travel to work patterns of specific groups. The key elements in this are:
  • the cost of travel
  • the cost of child care
  • the incidence of part-time work
  • the incidence of low pay
  • the relatively low wages that jobs seekers with limited skills and qualifications can command
  • the limited volume of local employment opportunities (although this is highly variable across areas).
A major implication for local initiatives is that, either by themselves or in partnership with other agencies, they must seek to address more than training issues. This was recognised in Castlemilk with the pressure by the Castlemilk Economic Development Agency (CEDA) to improve public transport to the buoyant East Kilbride labour market. Similarly, European Social Fund supported training courses have long provided child care support.
Does Training Raise Aspirations and Expectations?
The surveys clearly showed that training raises aspirations and expectations, and changes job search behaviour for a significant proportion of those taking part. Most of these changes are positive in terms of the effort to re-employ unemployed people in the more disadvantaged communities in Scotland.
However for those who subsequently remain unemployed, some of the good work is undone, although most retain increased aspirations and expectations. There is also a small group who claim that their self confidence and optimism are lower than before training, i.e. they have been lifted up and then dropped back to below their starting point.
Solutions are likely to lie in the area of better quality initial guidance, more strict mechanisms for recruitment into training and continued support post-training.
What Influences Employability?
A low proportion (around a third) of former trainees were in employment at the time of the research and a high proportion (around a half) had never found work at any time post-training. Although this is compensated partly by the 13% in training or education, the majority full time, the outputs from predominantly vocational training programmes are disappointing. There is, however, a significant variation across the different types of provision, with the training supported by the European Social Fund achieving significantly higher success rates than Training for Work.
More specifically, the research:
  • established the importance of prior qualifications and qualifications gained during the training for subsequent employability.
  • confirmed the impact of raised personal confidence and optimism on the chances of finding and keeping work.
  • underlined the profound problems of the very long-term unemployed who seem to gain little from the training programmes.
The research raises serious questions about the need for alternative and possibly better-resourced provision for the long-term unemployed who may have skills but certainly lack recent work experience. This is the gap the intermediate labour market model is intended to fill. A small number of intermediate labour schemes have run in Castlemilk, under the auspices of Glasgow Works, but not in the other Partnership areas.
Lessons for Good Practice
There are elements of a model approach to local employment and training provision in disadvantaged areas contained within the practice in these three estates.
Pre-Labour Market Entry
Problems of disadvantaged groups in the labour market are often embedded well before leaving school. The Home School Employment Project in Ferguslie Park has clearly produced benefits in terms of, for example, the level of qualifications achieved.
Pre-Training Training
Schemes like Jumpstart in Castlemilk have made inroads into making sure the unemployed are made ready for more formal training. CEDA has put together a Youth Team in recognition of the profound difficulties with the younger, more disadvantaged client group.
Vocational Training
Over time, as a result of the many lessons learned, training programmes have become more:
  • closely tied to perceived employer demands
  • likely to generate qualifications for successful trainees
  • sensitive to the personal development needs of the trainees
  • sympathetic to the need to provide support for job search
  • aligned with employers through work experience placements.
Much of this practice has developed within the more flexible framework provided by European funds.
Intermediate Labour Markets
The research highlighted the difficulty of designing training provision which impacts significantly on the longer-term unemployed. The review of the Glasgow Works projects in Castlemilk suggests reasonable success rates in line with wider evaluations of the Wise Group and Glasgow Works. If intermediate labour market schemes can be developed which mesh in with the wider urban regeneration processes, important synergies are set off which can further increase cost effectiveness.
Training for Higher Level Skills
Higher level skills raise earning power and so combat the barriers of travel to work costs and benefit traps. Among the difficulties faced by local initiatives in relation to pushing their vocational training effort more 'up market' are:
  • persuading local people of the potential value of something they are not familiar with.
  • finding enough local people to make courses viable.
One solution in these circumstances is to go into partnership with other local initiatives in the wider urban area.
Employer Links
Linking to the employing community is critically important. The encouraging evidence of the study is the quite high percentage of employers who began to recruit Partnership area residents for the first time in the previous 12 months. CEDA's work with East Kilbride employers, the 'Jobs Fair' in Wester Hailes, Wester Hailes Management Agency's electronics course and the work placements facilitated through the Ferguslie Park BSG are all good examples of what can be achieved.
After Care
Particularly where a substantial investment has gone into developing a trainee's confidence and skills, it pays to commit more resources to secure the long term returns on that investment. The 'Talk Don't Walk' project developed by the WHOT Shop in Wester Hailes is a successful example of what can be achieved.
Knowing What Works
There was considerable variability in the quality and reliability of the post-project monitoring information. Clearly monitoring can be overdone, but it is only in this way that we can be sure of what works, never mind why it works and whether it will transfer to other areas.
Looking Forward
Although confirming the difficulties regeneration initiatives confront in trying to increase the employability of local unemployed people, the research has generated a number of positive messages. Training and related programmes can help raise aspirations and expectations with respect to the labour market, and these positive changes in attitude reflect themselves in the chances of finding and keeping work. The depth and diversity of the problem of unemployment means, however, that local employment and training initiatives need to deliver a wide range of support and projects if they are to exert a significant and continuing impact on local unemployment.
'Regeneration Areas and Barriers to Employment', the research report which is summarised in this Research Findings, is available priced £5.00.
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