A special relationship - JCPs & UK online centres

03 Jul 2013 |Written by Victoria Stirling

UK online centres and Jobcentre Plus offices (JCPs) have been working in partnership for many years, but in the last 12 months that relationship - on a national and local level - has really come into its own.

In our last survey, some 41% of UK online centre learners said they heard about their local UK online centre from Jobcentre Plus. That’s a pretty astonishing referral rate. But the relationship goes a lot further than mere referrals. Some UK online centres go into Jobcentres and deliver digital skills sessions to clients. Others put up posters or spend the odd afternoon with a stand, chatting to clients waiting for appointments. Others run job-clubs within their centre, or provide an informal drop in service for Jobseekers.

In part, it’s a sign of the times, and certainly of the correlating objectives of the networks. More than 90% of new jobs require some level of IT skills, and many companies will only let you apply for jobs online. The new online Universal jobmatch system has also made digital skills an imperative for those looking for work. But as any amateur marriage counsellor might tell you, having mutual goals and values isn’t the only ingredient in a successful relationship. What’s made this one work is lots of talking and listening. Mostly it’s been a lot of hard work - from DWP and Tinder down, and JCP and UK online centres up.

DWP (the Department for Work and Pensions) have ensured there is a dedicated Digital Champion in each Jobcentre, and have helped to disseminate information about UK online centre referrals and campaigns centrally. Meanwhile, Tinder have done the same communications job with the UK online centres network, and set up a dedicated Into Work network which specialises in digital job seeking skills. Together, we’ve run referral programmes and pilots to establish best practice, and even introduced what is now a yearly, joint campaign for UK online centres and Jobcentres to identify and support unemployed people in need of digital skills.

It’s the local partnerships forged by individual UK online centres and Jobcentres, however, which have given us those models for engagement, and which have paved the way for others to work together. It’s at this ground level the ‘special relationship’ is really special, and where it is improving not just referral rates but skills, employability, and life chances.

Jobcentre Plus offices and UK online centres are a match made in heaven, but we’re very much at the beginning of our beautiful relationship, not the end. That means there’s still work to do. For instance, we’re currently supporting a Universal Pathfinder programme in Greater Manchester, and will be looking to embed what we learn elsewhere in the network. We’re also planning a new work experience programme for Jobseekers in UK online centres, due to roll-out shortly.

Watch this space, and I’ll keep you posted on our relationship status over the coming weeks and months.