The innovative Steps to Work programme has helped nearly 9,000 into employment, according to the latest statistics.
It is delivered by Employment Service Advisers throughout the Jobs & Benefits Office/JobCentre network in Northern Ireland and offers a flexible menu of training or work experience tailored to meet individuals’ needs.
Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry, was in Antrim recently to welcome a new Steps to Work lead contractor to the area.
A4e (Action for Employment) has been appointed in the Antrim contract area for the Department’s main adult return to work programme, which aims to assist unemployed and economically inactive people into sustained employment.
Working with Employment Service Advisers in the Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Larne and Carrickfergus Jobs and Benefits office areas, A4e will deliver training and work experience provision throughout the area.
Speaking at the launch event, the Minister said: “A major part of my Department’s role in contributing to economic recovery is to help our customers address and develop skills which are needed by local employers.
“Steps to Work has an important role to play in this process, whether in addressing essential skills needs, providing short courses to learn new skills, or offering work experience to develop and build on these skills. Moreover, an effective working partnership between Jobs and Benefits office staff and Lead Contractors is essential if we are to continue to provide such opportunities to our people.”
Steps to Work offers a number of different choices around work-related activities that can be fitted to suit an individual’s needs when it comes to finding employment.
Anyone over 18-years-old, lone parents aged 16 and over, and anyone who is not working or working less than 16 hours each week is eligible. People can take part whether they are claiming benefit or not working and not claiming benefit.
The programme offers personalised advice and guidance; the opportunity to gain a recognised qualification and opportunities for work experience.
Another part of the programme is the Step Ahead initiative aimed at helping people on benefits who have been out of work for 30 months to regain work experience through a fixed-term job.
The Steps to Work programme has also been enhanced to meet the needs of unemployed graduates with the introduction of the Graduate Acceleration programme. This offers graduates an opportunity to kickstart their career through a six-month work placement and a management qualification from Queen’s University or the University of Ulster.