29/06/2010

Good News On Jobs For Shankill

Job and promotion opportunities for almost 200 people from deprived areas of west Belfast has been hailed as the result of an award-winning employment programme.

The first initiative of its kind, the West Belfast and Greater Shankill Health Employment Partnership was developed by local community based organisations, the trade union UNISON and Belfast Health & Social Care Trust.

Within the local communities, the initiative was supported by the Employment Services Board, Job Assist Centres in West Belfast and Greater Shankill, local Area Partnership Boards and the Employer's Forum.

It was established three years ago and has since helped unemployed people to 'skill up' so that they could get hospital jobs.

It has also provided training for lower-paid hospital workers so that they could move up the ladder through career progression, thereby creating vacancies for those coming behind to secure a job.

Some 143 people have got jobs with the Belfast Trust – most of these people had experienced long-term unemployment and other barriers to getting jobs while 316 lower-paid staff in the Trust have received additional training to help them develop their careers, and 36 of these staff have already obtained promotion.

It is believed that the added economic impact on the local economy in West Belfast and the Greater Shankill is as much as £1.48m each year.

That's according to the findings of an independent evaluation which concluded that the programme has been uniquely impressive and value-for-money; and that the "excellent results would not have been achieved in the absence of partnership working".

Welcoming the evaluation findings Sir George Quigley, Chairman of Bombardier Aerospace and prominent business figure, has been greatly encouraged by the development of the programme: "Far too many in Northern Ireland are disconnected from the world of work.

"They lack the security and the sense of purpose and well-being which those of us who are privileged to have been in work throughout our adult lives take for granted.

"They want to contribute and to play a role as active, fully empowered citizens but they are denied a key entry ticket – a job," he said, noting that a top priority for Northern Ireland should be to "help these people to get on to the job ladder and to encourage them to keep moving up it and experience the pride which comes from seeing just how much they are capable of achieving".

Economist John Simpson, who saw this project develop out of the original report of the Task Forces, congratulated the different agencies on the successful outcomes from the Partnership: ''The Partnership has created a simple and very cost effective method to give some existing employees an opportunity to progress to better paid jobs and, in parallel, to prepare and recruit people to fill the vacancies after being unemployed or outside the labour market.

"The economics of the initiative, in terms of value for money, are impressive.

"The cost per job created, at £4,606, is less than other Government schemes," he said, noting that the cost is easily outweighed by the improved earnings potential of the people who get the jobs and, for the public sector, by the reduced social security payments."

Inez McCormack, a co-founder of the Partnership, commented: "You don't wait for change to happen, you make it!

"This project was based on a joint employer/union health training partnership that I saw in the Bronx, New York.

"We developed it by bringing in the communities as equal partners at the table and I am very clear that this has been key to the highly successful results," she said, noting that these innovative elements of the Belfast model have now been adopted in New York.

Dr Michael Paull, Dean Emeritus, Lehman College, City University of New York said: "I have been so impressed with the Belfast model that I am using it as the basis of a new initiative in the Bronx that is focused on finding employment in healthcare for the Hispanic population.

"We are working with community groups, the union, government, hospitals and higher education to determine possible new entry level careers that will be generated by the health care reforms in the US and then to create training programs that will articulate with both career ladders and higher education.

"At the same time, we are identifying incumbent Hispanic workers and providing education and internship opportunities for them to advance in a given career pathway. The West Belfast and Greater Shankill Health Employment Partnership has been the inspiration of this project."

(BMcC/GK)

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