An initative tackling unemployment in socially deprived areas of the borough has received a £1.7m funding boost.
Let’s Work, which is supported from the Northern Ireland Executive’s Social Investment Fund under the Delivering Social Change framework, has had over 50% participation since launching in September 2019.
Carrickfergus Enterprise is project managing the scheme alongside employability specialists, Network Personnel. Set to be completed by December 2020 , it aims to engage with up to 160 participants from the top 10% or 20% socially disadvantaged areas including: Larne, Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey, Antrim, Coleraine, Magherafelt, Cookstown, Moyle and Ballymoney.
David McIlhagger, vice chair of Carrickfergus Enterprise, said: “This significant investment and support for those who are unemployed is really encouraging. Our ethos at Carrickfergus Enterprise is to create jobs and we have already seen great success in terms of placing participants with key employers as well as developing participant skills and knowledge.
“Let’s Work encourages participants to strive toward a fresh start in employment as well as supporting businesses in gaining a skilled and knowledgeable work force. Through working closely with the project partners, we are seeing real change not only in attitudes but in lowering unemployment in lower socio-economic areas across Northern Ireland.
“Carrickfergus Enterprise has been responsible for a breadth of employability and business successes across the province. This large-scale project can make positive changes to peoples lives and can go some way towards addressing some of the key barriers to employment and create positive news for the area.”
The employment training programme seeks to widen access to job opportunities and create meaningful pathways to employment. Goals include reducing the number of unemployed people in the Social Investment Fund Northern zone, improving skill levels of long term unemployed and increasing personal confidence.
In just over three months, 53% of 160 participants are benefiting from Let’s Work and the next year will see further engagement to support people to enhance their skills, encourage training accreditation and convert work placements into full time equivalent roles.
Alex McKee, from Network Personnel, said: “The person-centred ethos of the project perfectly complements our existing suite of employability provision, bridging the gap for individuals who are furthest removed from the labour market and who will benefit most from a structured programme of support during their first few months of employment.
“By facilitating a perfect match between employer needs and participant aspirations, we can ensure a rewarding and mutually beneficial experience for both parties. Let’s Work is a fantastic grassroots stepping stone which will vastly enhance the long term employment prospects for a great number of people in our local communities.”
Dr Mark Browne, director of Strategic Policy, Equality & Good Relations in the Executive Office, said: “I am delighted that the £1.7m allocated to this project will assist with improving training and employment skill levels to enable access to job opportunities.
“It is great to see how this project is already benefitting those most in need across the SIF Northern Zone and adding to the great work already supported by SIF.”