I learnt a new word this week –“ returnships” – which is opportunities being created by businesses for people who have been out of the workforce for an extended period. The concept and the programmes which go with it are mainly aimed at women who have taken career breaks for parenting or caring, though there are many reasons why some-one would have a space in their CV.
There is primarily an economic driver for these programmes, especially because one of the many downsides of Brexit, (are there any upsides?) is a significant reduction in the labour market at a time when we need to grow our economy, so it’s good to see some recognition that a gap in a CV isn’t necessarily a black hole which can never be filled.
Having said that, there is a whole other group of people who need pathways into work; whose CV has never been filled with anything or for whom the gap was created by something that carries a stigma way beyond the problem of employers thinking a returning mother either won’t be up to date with the latest skills required for their industry or will be distracted by their family – outrageous as these are. If the economy is ever going to have all the people it needs to be in employment, especially after Brexit, then we need to find a way to pave those paths well, remove barriers and understand the needs of those most distant from employment.
There are those who have come from a tough reality, for whom even the very idea of getting a job seems a far distant dream. They may carry a criminal conviction which seems to never leave them, even if it is “spent” as far as the law is concerned. I do remember being on a course where a group of us spent a day in Edinburgh Prison. Part of the day was spent with people in jail for 25 or more years, mostly for murder. The conversation flowed well until one of them said; “so which one of you will give us a job when we get out”… lots of silence and feet staring ensued.
If I’d been doing then what I do now, I’d have at least been able to suggest Cyrenians Foundations to Employment programme. It’s not a job but is a step on the way which explores the barriers to getting started, finds meaningful activity for those early days to build confidence and the most basic skills of turning up and being dependable. Our task is not to get some-one a job but to journey with them until they can make the decisions they need to make so they are ready for the next stage towards a job. It might be a more regular volunteer position, some education, a programme to face up to a particular challenge which is holding them back – whatever it takes to build the foundations of a journey to employment.
There are many stumbles on the way, knock backs and false starts. Our task is to be constant and to be consistent and to take the time needed to create the space for change to happen. New resources for “returnships” are a good thing, but having the resources, including time and patience for what I will call “pathwayships” – another made up word but one which captures the idea of the much longer journey to employment facing many, would be a very good plan too.
15 June 2017