Discussion centred on localism and the future of PES; profiling systems; lifelong guidance; older workers; and low skilled young people, all of which underpin the broader pan-European employment policy known as the EU2020 Strategy.
Ingeus was the only private provider invited to take part in the conference. Dr Vinny Pattison, Research Analyst at the Ingeus Centre for Policy and Research (ICPR), spoke at a plenary session entitled “Profiling systems for effective labour market integration” alongside colleagues from the German PES and a Finnish consultancy. Profiling discussions have been on the European Commission agenda for several years but have taken on a heightened importance in the context of EU2020 – the European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Member States are increasingly looking to activate inactive groups in an attempt to grow employment rates in the face of fiscal and demographic challenges.
Dr Pattison drew upon best practice and knowledge generated from across Ingeus’ international operations to inform the debate around effective profiling systems. With a focus on employability skills profiling he asserted:
- Profiling by private employment services is different to that by PES by virtue of their inherently different business models and the move towards payment by outcome performance measurement systems. The requirement to sustain clients in work for 26 or 52 weeks and beyond places increased importance on not only understanding a client’s constraints to work and how they can be assisted to overcome these, but also on building resilience and enabling future employment and life transitions. This requires moving beyond a simple job match model and towards dynamic profiling, based on client need and not their duration of unemployment or benefit type, to enable a more holistic approach.
- Skills are an integral element of the profiling discussion, particularly in the context of EU2020; the EU flagship initiative New Skills for New Jobs; and the current discrepancies between the skills required by employers and skills profiles of jobseekers. Employability skills are of particular importance as they provide the foundations for sustainable employment and successful labour market and career transitions. This is a recurring theme in ongoing research and discussions with employers.
- Employability skills are difficult to determine using profiling mechanisms, such as discussions with advisors or online tools, because they are reliant on client self-disclosure. As part of Ingeus’ personalised approach we use a multitude of actions to equip clients with the skills they need to sustain employment, such as in-house and delivery partner specialists; group activities; and employer pre-screens whereby a client’s employability skills are tested in real life employment scenarios.
- The use of an advanced, collaborative software platform enables the various professionals who assist a client on their journey to record their strengths, such as communication skills or previous work experience, alongside any issues for improvement that are evident such as repeat lateness or lack of teamwork skills. This enables the client’s personal advisor to develop an in-depth holistic profile of their skills so that these can be acknowledged and respected, developed further, and used as a means to discuss their transferability within the labour market.
- Sustainability is a key target, and consequently a business driver, in employment services. It is necessary, therefore, to understand each clients’ skills and challenges at the point they move into work to better identify the support needed to enable them to stay in work. Employability skill assessments are key to this process and can also help to reinforce with clients that skills development is a lifelong process which evolves according to their employment duration and the changing demands of the job or the labour market. In this way, the industry moves beyond the idea of simply assisting clients into work towards a service which further empowers clients by equipping them with employability skills to enable future career and life transitions. Similar profiling techniques for other key barriers to sustainable employment, such as health, are also used as part of a more holistic profiling model.
- As governmental employment activation policies increasingly require the ‘harder to help’ client groups to look for work, PES and their partners will also need to profile differently to ensure that their systems are fit for purpose for the diverse needs of future customers. This can be achieved through a number of actions: joining up ICT systems; using a variety of trained specialists to assist clients in their journey to employment; and comprehensive ongoing assessments to ensure a full understanding of clients’ skills, strengths, and areas for improvement, in order to develop more detailed and holistic insights. Profiling in this way is dynamic in that it draws on multiple sources to gain a full picture of the client’s circumstances which can be used to better allocate resources to enable them to move into fulfilling employment in the timeliest fashion.
- Information flow is a concept currently being discussed in the United Kingdom to better assist jobseekers. Increasingly, information that was once held by the public sector is now being held by the private sector. As well as significant challenges this also raises interesting questions about how this information could be “joined up” to provide more detailed client profiling tools. Clearly structural employment is a complex issue involving not only lack of work, but parallel social policy spaces such as health, justice and education. Information held by these different government ministries could be shared to develop a more complete profile of an individual in order to assist them to overcome their often complex barriers. Similarly, if information was securely shared between PES and their partners, the client experience could be improved as they are not re-telling their story each time they meet with a new organisation. This would also lead to more effective profiling and, ultimately, optimise the nature, cost, quality and effectiveness of employment service delivery.
Further to this work, a broader body of research around employment skills will be developed by the Ingeus Centre for Policy and Research over the next year. The focus of this research, which it is hoped will feed into national and international operational and policy discussions, will be in five key areas:
1. Identifying the skills demands of employers in the industries and occupations in which clients typically find work
2. Investigating employer experiences and perceptions of the employability of unemployed people
3. Understanding client perceptions of local labour market demand and opportunities and recognition of their own employability
4. Analysing the social networks of young people and how these impact upon their employment and skills decisions
5. Exploring the issues of in-work skills development and skills utilisation in workplaces in which our client typically find work and their links to employment sustainability and career progression.
For more information please contact Vinny Pattison.