The Employment initiative “Let’s Work”, funded by the Social Investment Fund (SIF) under the Delivering Social Change framework, has helped 43 people gain employment this year. The programme, which commenced in October 2019, received £1.08m investment from SIF to help address employment related issues in areas of socio-economic need across Northern Ireland.  The programme sought to widen access to jobs, improve skill levels and increase personal confidence.

Carrickfergus Enterprise provides strategic leadership to the scheme with employability specialists, Network Personnel taking forward the operational delivery of training and placement provision. The project is set to complete by March 2021 and by that time will have successfully placed 160 participants from the top 10% or 20% socially disadvantaged areas including: Larne, Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey, Antrim, Coleraine, Magherafelt, Cookstown, Moyle and Ballymoney into paid employment placements.

These placement opportunities are tailored and relevant to the chosen career path of the participants. Additionally, many have achieved training, mentoring and accredited qualifications to further their career prospects.

Despite the impact of the pandemic on the host businesses, with many having to close their doors to adhere togovernment guidelines, 76% of participants who have completed placement have remained in employment. Host businesses offering placements are from varying sectors including; manufacturing, IT, hospitality, Health & Social Care, gaming design and construction.

Manager of Carrickfergus Enterprise, Kelli McRoberts said: “The pandemic presented a unique challenge to the viability of the Let’s Work project. Due to the first lockdown in late March, many host businesses had to close their doors, therefore placements ceased. As normality was beginning to return during the summer months, a number of placements restarted, and the programme was back to full capacity from August.

“We are really pleased with progression of the programme despite the challenges of Covid-19. A big thank you goes to all the host businesses without whom success would not have been possible Let’s Work funding offers a flexible approach that has been particularly vital with the Covid pandemic.  It is tailored to the suit the individual needs of the participants skills and host employers.  Many participants are given an opportunity to increase their skills through on-the-job training and mentoring support which they would not normally be able to access due to several barriers.  This project has already made positive changes to people’s lives and it is contributing towards addressing some of the key barriers in employment.”