Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Bronx scheme inspires jobs partnership in health sector

An employment scheme in west Belfast inspired by a partnership in New York’s Bronx has created jobs and promotions for almost 200 people from deprived areas.

The West Belfast and Greater Shankill Health Employment Partnership aimed to help unemployed people get hospital jobs.

It also trained lower-paid hospital workers so they could improve their career prospects.

As a result, 143 people have jobs in the Belfast Trust, many of them after long-term unemployment, while 316 staff in low-paid positions have been trained, with 36 winning promotions.

Sir George Quigley, chairman of Bombardier Aerospace and a supporter of the scheme, said: “The Belfast Health Employment Partnership has shown how the pathways into and through the world of work can be successfully laid. Those pathways now need to be replicated throughout the city and beyond. There could be no better means of enlarging opportunity and transforming lives.”

Economist John Simpson also praised the project. “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,” he said.

“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. 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.”

Civil rights activist Inez McCormack, a co-founder of the partnership, said: 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 this has been key to the successful results.”

Paula McKeever, now a catering assistant in the Royal Hospital, said the scheme had helped her change her life after seven months without work. “I feel so much better, my self confidence is back, and I have a stable job and secure future,” she said.

The Health Employment Partnership said that it was in discussion with the Government about continuing the programme until 2014.