As the end of October and the end of the furlough scheme approached and many of our residents and young people felt let down by the government, it was left to local councils to step in to start reforms to change the employment prospects for our residents.

The pandemic hasn’t been easy on anyone, emotionally, physically and least of all financially. 

Hackney Works, the council’s employment brokerage service, has proved how crucial this service is to residents who lost their jobs as the end of the furlough scheme approached and where their employers were unable to keep them on.

Some residents have found themselves out of a job they’ve been doing for 20 years whilst others have been denied the start to the careers they deserve. 

With little direction from ministers about what happens next, in Hackney, we’ve been thinking about how we can support our residents into work at this crucial time.

Before the pandemic, we were working with our residents to provide training so that people from all backgrounds could equip themselves with the tools they need to walk into their dream job. 

With a vibrant digital and creative economy right on our doorstep, a large hospital trust, a growing retail and hospitality sector as well as the city within walking distance of the borough boundary, it was a priority for us to ensure everyone enjoys the new opportunities becoming available in and around our borough. 

We were focused on quality employment opportunities for Hackney residents, and we’d made headway, with the Greater London Authority predicting a 31 per cent growth in jobs based in East London.

We were on track to creating a fairer Hackney, and now the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has made our work more important than ever. 

I am still committed to ensuring residents are able to access opportunities.

The council is committed to helping residents through furlough and providing support where the government has failed them.

Over the summer thousands of young people were faced with A-level and GCSE grades lower than they expected and many of our youngest residents were forced to rethink their career trajectory.

We know that working with education providers will be key for supporting Hackney residents over the next few years. That’s why we have signed a partnership with London Metropolitan University. This is our first partnership with a higher education provider and will allow us to help students access and apply to well paid roles. 

This will also enable us to work with local businesses to ensure residents can develop the confidence and skills to access good quality jobs. 

So far the council’s employment and skills work has successfully delivered:

  • Paid work experience opportunities for our young people
  • An on-the-job training scheme for residents with SEND
  • A multi-award-winning apprenticeship scheme
  • An adult trainee programme (interrupted by coronavirus)

The coronavirus pandemic has also laid bare that urgent need to ensure our residents are connected to high quality employment, well paid work and career progression. That is why I have actively campaigned for the London Living Wage so those workers we rely on the most, are paid at least £10.75 an hour. It is also why I want to see improvements to statutory sick pay so low paid workers can take time off work when they need it most.

With the recent lockdown announcement and further lack of clarity from the government, it is now more important than ever for local councils to create partnerships to help transform local labour markets. 

I also urge the government to reform the apprenticeship levy – it must give employers more flexibility in how the levy is deployed and enable the levy to be used for pre-apprenticeship programmes.

There is much work to be done and it is why we won’t let our residents and young people down when they need us most. 

We must help connect residents to high quality employment support and opportunities to learn new skills, access higher and further education, get good quality, well paid work and progress their career throughout their working life. 

We know the coming months will not be easy but I am confident that in Hackney we are laying down the foundations and building partnerships that can help those who need it most. 

Cllr Carole Williams is cabinet member for employment, skills and human resources at Hackney Council

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