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Community wealth building: how the creation of fair employment and just labour markets can help end in-work poverty

Posted in: Blog.

a woman holding some plants

Stephen Hamill has been the General Manager for CEIS Ayrshire, a subsidiary of CEIS Group focused on employability, since its creation in 2007. Stephen has been involved in the employability sector since 1997. He has held a number of roles from frontline adviser and trainer to a senior management role in the CEIS Group.

As the first council in Scotland to get adopt Community Wealth Building, North Ayrshire is committed to working in partnership with communities and businesses to build a strong local economy. One that supports fair work, encourages people to spend locally, and sees land and property used for the common good.

CEIS Ayrshire have been instrumental in supporting the council’s drive to create fair and meaningful jobs that pay the living wage for local talent. This includes providing training to those that need it, helping people in hard-to-reach areas, and offering business services to local organisations.

Across the UK there has been a rise in zero-hour contracts and in-work poverty, meaning that the reality of employment for many in the country is increasingly unstable. In smaller communities, such as North Ayrshire, this increase can have a devastating effect on people and economies. But what is the true impact of this? How do we help those that are experiencing it, and how does Community Wealth Building seek to fix it?

The impact of in-work poverty in North Ayrshire

With cost of living on the rise, in-work poverty is only set to grow. For many people in smaller communities, local work is not always available. For those in lower paid jobs, in-work poverty becomes a real issue.

The rise of in work poverty has of course also had an impact on average wages meaning, for example, some people have fallen into the fuel poverty bracket, or perhaps they work in roles where the salary doesn’t meet living wage standards, leaving them with tough decisions to make every month as to where their income goes.

The impact of the cost-of-living increase is also creating challenges around food poverty, which is compounding in-work poverty. We find that most of the clients we support into employment on our employability contracts are being offered full or part time permanent contracts, meaning that we don’t work with, and very rarely come across, zero-hour contract employers in North Ayrshire. As a result, we have been seeing a good level of job sustainment over the past 12 months.

Contributing factors to in-work poverty and how we help people through it

A key trend we have noticed which has contributed to in-work poverty is a mismatch between the various vacancies that are available and the skillsets of the people in the community. Put simply individuals don’t have skills that match what the employers are looking for. Our job is to make sure that these are aligned – we support people and create a development journey, helping those that are unemployed into sustainable work with employability support, skills development, and training.

We work with employers so that once we place people in jobs, we ensure they have everything they need to succeed. This is where challenges arise and where in-work poverty becomes apparent. Some may have all the skills they need to do the role effectively, but they might not actually be able to afford to be in that job, whether it’s not being able to afford to get to work, or they may have caring responsibilities and need flexible working, but the employer doesn’t allow it amongst the many other things that create in-work poverty. This is when we work with employers to try to ensure the individual is supported.

By working with local employers, we’re ensuring that the communities we work in are supported, which in turn has a huge effect on the prospects of local people. This includes helping people from hard-to-reach groups in disadvantaged areas into work.

And by keeping people employed in their local communities, this reduces the chance of in-work poverty, and if people are still experiencing it, we can work with employers to address it.

Why working with anchor institutions helps stimulate the local economy through progressive employment

As an organisation we have been working in a long-term collaboration between Ayrshire Anchor Institutions as we support and share community wealth building goals. Our own mission and services are aligned to improve collective wellbeing and create a strong, resilient, and inclusive local and regional economy. This includes our commitment to embedding the community wealth building principles and the pillar objectives. We are very proactive with other Anchor Institutions (such as the Council, the NHS, Colleges and large private companies) to collaborate on shared priorities and projects as well as progressing with joint procurement opportunities, most recently with The Ayrshire Community Trust and Cunninghame Housing Association. Through our employment services we provide secure and safe employment opportunities for local people while working alongside local employers to ensure any imbalances and wellbeing issues are supported. CEIS Ayrshire has an unofficial “grow your own” policy where in work progression is always catered for where applicable.

How community wealth building is helping change employment in North Ayrshire

We are in a fortunate position to be resident in North Ayrshire who are the first Community Wealth Building Council in Scotland. The change required is how we work as an organisation and with partners, from the goods that we buy, people we employ and the support we receive from North Ayrshire Council and local Anchor Organisations that can bring about change to maximise economic opportunities. We can do this by enhancing local wealth and the creation and promotion of fair jobs and working in partnership with our communities and businesses.

North Ayrshire Council is focused on engaging the community and helping smaller organisations to become hubs that can be used to help people out of poverty. With our help, they have been helping to prioritise local employers and local businesses to hire people locally. They also offer business support to organisations that want to tender for new work by lending their expertise, capacity, and knowledge so that they can attract new contracts and clients, thus keeping local money in the local community and creating jobs.

The next step is to find ways to kickstart the building of new infrastructure locally that allows for the development of an entrepreneurial spirit, one that encourages people to start businesses and create new jobs.

It may take a couple of years for us to see the fruits of these labours, but as long the people of North Ayrshire remain committed to it, it will work.

Join us on our LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram as we discuss community wealth building and our position on it over the rest of May.

Want to learn more about CEIS Ayrshire and how their employability and business services are helping the people of North Ayrshire (and beyond)? Visit their website.

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