Futures – delivering the Nottingham Jobs model of integrated employment, skills, and careers support

Futures, a social enterprise jointly owned by Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire County Council delivers Nottingham Jobs – an integrated model of employment, skills, and careers support benefiting local residents and employers


This initiative brings together DWP(Department for Work and Pensions), Nottingham City Council, training providers, universities, and community-based organisations and services, providing a comprehensive solution to local employment and skills challenges by aggregating disparately funded programmes within a single partnership. Jobseekers receive holistic mentoring and careers advice, access to skills provision, and referral into employment with employers that are incentivised through free recruitment services, skills and workforce planning advice, corporate social responsibility, positive action, and grant funding. 

The challenge 
Nottingham has historically high unemployment, low skills levels and educational attainment and areas of significant deprivation and poverty. Employment and skills provision is typically fragmented and overlapping through different local and nationally commissioned provision, and lacks integration between DWP Job Centres, city council-based services, and CVSE organisations working to the criteria of different funding bodies. In terms of the customer journey for unemployed jobseekers and young people that are NEET (many of whom have multiple and complex needs) there are clear ‘cliff-edges’ such as leaving full-time education, leaving prison, being discharged from healthcare,  becoming newly unemployed, or exiting a particular employability programme when funding runs out or individuals are no longer eligible for support. Employers too are subject to a lack of impartial advice on skills and workforce development, prohibitively expensive recruitment support, and an unawareness of the local labour market. This  leads to an inflexibility in recruitment and employment practices. It is also difficult for employers to influence the employment and skills agenda in terms of local authority policies; there is also a lack of clear incentive for them to engage.

The solution
Nottingham Jobs is the city council's employment and skills brokerage service, providing specialist support to employers and job seekers within Nottingham and its neighbourhoods. The Nottingham Jobs model provides a comprehensive and complete range of employment and skills interventions coordinated by a novel strategic partnership of DWP and the city council, and augmented by the coordination of local and nationally funded programmes secured and delivered by Futures. The ability to seamlessly link the jobseeker journey from their first engagement with careers provision (via DWP or the local community) with support for employers in terms of creating jobs and apprenticeships, demonstrates a model of local integration and delivery of services, which maximises benefits for users, stakeholders and the local economy as a whole.

They do this by:

  • working with employers to create local jobs for local people
  • offering a single point of access to search and apply for vacancies
  • working with local training providers to offer training opportunities for city residents
  • working in partnership with community organisations to offer advice and support to city residents.

The initiative minimises the number of transition points for individuals. This delivery includes the following:

  • Futures, which is embedded in every secondary school in Nottingham to provide targeted support for learners identified through Risk of NEET indicators.
  • The Nottingham Works programme, which engages young people aged 16-29 with intensive careers support, ‘pre-traineeships’, travel support, and personal budgeting.
  • The Jobs Hub, run by Futures. This service is an integrated team of Futures, DWP, and city council staff that engages employers. The Jobs Hub integration with DWP is particularly important, as it links DWP, other Future’s services, and the employment and apprenticeship opportunities secured by the Hub.
  • Futures also delivers the Nottingham Apprenticeship Grant and the Nottingham Jobs Fund, which provide a variety of financial incentives between £1,000 and £4,000 per individual for employers taking apprentices or unemployed local residents that are underrepresented in the local labour market.

The impact
Since its inception in 2013, labour market trends in Nottingham City clearly show that Nottingham Jobs has had a demonstrable impact:

Claimant count
Between March 2013 and June 2017, the claimant count in Nottingham fell at a faster rate than both England (-1.9) and the East Midlands (-2.1).

All out of work benefits
Between Nov 2013 and Nov 2016 (latest data) the proportion of adults on Out of Work Benefits fell faster in Nottingham City (-3.1 percentage points) compared to England (-2.2) and the East Midlands (-1.8).

Employment rate (percentage 16-64)
Nottingham City’s employment rate is relatively low, but it increased by 5.6 percentage points between March 2012 and March 2016, faster than was the case for England (3.7) or the East Midlands (3.0).

Employer feedback
The key feature of the Nottingham Jobs Hub is that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. The combined offer of DWP, Futures and Nottingham City Council to employers is realised through the Hub.

Employers report valuing the following benefits of working with the Hub:

  • a single point of contact and impartial advice around recruitment, skills, CSR, managing relationships with training providers, and other workforce relates support
  • reduced duplication in services delivered between DWP and Nottingham City Council
  • use of Nottingham Jobs website – the most popular jobs website in the Nottingham area www.nottinghamjobs.com
  • free and flexible recruitment services including the benefits of the sector based work academy model of targeted recruitment
  • access to quantity & quality of candidates via jobs fair, websites, and other recruitment pathways
  • grants that can support/enhance skills, support workforce development and encourage growth
  • support for CSR and inclusive recruitment – employers wanting to engage communities and schools or develop a more representative workforce have benefited from Jobs Hub advice
  • skills advice to help understand the apprenticeship reforms, manage the apprenticeship levy and create apprenticeships for new or existing roles
  • better links to local universities for graduates and internships
  • helpful signposting to other services within Nottingham City Council.

How is the new approach being sustained?
Key to the model has been the generation of income via Futures including:

  • £4m per annum for NCS delivery in the East Midlands
  • £6.4m from YEI (ESF)
  • £110K per annum in-kind DWP funding (over 5 years)
  • £500K City Council Section 106 funding in Employment & Training contributions
  • £72k City Council procurement levy on major contractors

Further to this the City Council has committed over £3m between 2012 and 2017 from core funding for the Nottingham Jobs Fund and its Jobs Hub staff.

This approach is being sustained through a combination of:

  • further external funding bids to the ESF with a total value of £3.9m
  • alignment with AEB and Apprenticeship funding via the ESFA
  • exploration of commercialisation models (more social enterprise activity and expansion of Futures ATA)
  • development of bespoke target interventions that meet the requirements of DWP’s Dynamic Purchasing system
  • development of health and work pilots  by using Nottingham Jobs service as part of CCG and Housing commissioning, which includes an employment element
  • continued income from the council’s Section 106 employment and training contributions and the 1 per cent procurement levy placed on contracts over £1m in size.

Lessons learned
Ongoing divergence and lack of coordination between commissioners across different thematic areas, at different scales (European, national, regional, local) and by different government departments that have related agendas (in this case DfE, BEIS, DLCG, DWP etc.) hampers the ability of local authorities to coordinate related programmes, avoid duplication and remove gaps. This in turn impacts on the experience of beneficiaries who face a number of ‘cliff edges’ due to poor (or zero) management of transition points between different services.

  • Partnerships are important but often struggle to overcome gaps created by uncoordinated commissioning, where contractors prioritise their own outcomes as opposed to providing people with the best support for them.

Joining up different programmes through co-location, shared systems and shared objectives leads to innovation and learning across different areas

  • Publicly-owned not-for-profit companies (such as Futures)  that are responsible to the local authority, but nevertheless operate independently and commercially, are an excellent vehicle for improving coordination of local delivery through aggregating contracts and programmes into a single joined-up service. This is important because of the ability to bid for funding outside of the remit of local authorities and to develop delivery in a range of complementary specialisms within careers, employment, skills, and targeted support for the most vulnerable.

Contact: Chris Grocock
Chris.Grocock@nottinghamcity.gov.uk
Nottingham Jobs Hub Manager | Nottingham Jobs 
T: 0115 876 2912 | M: 07508 239 538