SkillsHouse and Get Bradford Working case study

Taking action to tackle unemployment levels is a key priority for Bradford Council. Working with key partners in the district, the council has developed Get Bradford Working, an ambitious, long-term strategic investment programme that draws together a number of different projects which tackle the different issues and barriers facing Bradford’s residents.


It does this by creating jobs, apprenticeship places, a transformational curriculum for 14 to 19 year olds, legitimising sole traders working in the shadow economy, and providing a range of support measures for employers and those furthest from the labour market.

The challenge

More than half a million people live in Bradford in West Yorkshire with more than 150,000 of them aged under 19.

Currently, while Bradford’s unemployment levels for young people aged 16 to 18 are the lowest in West Yorkshire, the key challenge lies in the post-18 population, where unemployment rates are higher.

Adult unemployment in Bradford is high, with 64.9 per cent of the population in work compared with 71.1 per cent nationally. Rates of unemployment for young people under 25 are even higher. The proportion of adults in Bradford in lower skilled occupations is high at 38.8 per cent of the workforce, compared with 34 per cent nationally.

The solution

Taking action to reduce unemployment levels has been a priority for Bradford Council. Working with key partners in the district, the council developed Get Bradford Working, an ambitious, long-term strategic investment programme.

The £13.5 million programme was developed in collaboration with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), along with local schools, colleges and employers. 

The programme draws together a number of different projects which tackle the different issues and barriers facing Bradford’s residents in the labour market.  It does this by creating jobs, apprenticeship places, a transformational curriculum for 14 to 19 year olds, and legitimising sole traders working in the shadow economy. It also includes a range of support measures for employers and those furthest from the labour market, such as people with a disability, mental ill-health or drug and alcohol dependency.

One of the key strands of the programme was the setting up of SkillsHouse, a Bradford partnership offering a one-stop-shop solution principally for recruitment. SkillsHouse is open to all unemployed people in Bradford District. Many of the clients who it works with have been unemployed for more than a year, are recovering from a period of ill health, or require support with progression in literacy and numeracy. Individuals undertaking pre-employment training with SkillsHouse are also guaranteed an interview and additional support in order to help them to secure employment in the district. The big ask from SkillsHouse, is that people consistently demonstrate a willingness to learn.

SkillsHouse was initially set up in June 2015 to coincide with the opening of Bradford’s ‘The Broadway’ shopping centre. It operates as a finishing school where clients can develop work-based skills, attitudes and behaviours that employers specify for job vacancies. Close liaison between businesses and partners such as Jobcentre Plus (JCP) mean that SkillsHouse can bridge the gap between the skills a person may have and the ones that a specific role may require.

The SkillsHouse partnership consists of a small core team funded by Bradford Council and backed by the DWP and the National Careers Service (NCS) as well as key delivery partners, Bradford College, Aspire-Igen and Shipley College, who work closely together to provide a range of coordinated services.

The impact
To date, SkillsHouse has supported more than 1,000 unemployed people to find work, while the wider Get Bradford Working programme has helped over 3,000 people into employment.

SkillsHouse has played a key role in ensuring that visitors experience the highest quality service, supporting the continued redevelopment of Bradford’s dynamic city centre which includes the National Science and Media Museum and the award winning City Park. 

How is the new approach being sustained?

SkillsHouse has grown its offer for employers and has expanded its offer to businesses , now  including World Host accredited customer care training, the same standard used at the London 2012 Olympics. 

The approach has also been shared with other local authorities within the Leeds City Region. Bradford Council has successfully led a partnership bid with Leeds City Council to deliver a European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Local Flexibilities for the Unemployed Contract, securing additional match funding from the EU alongside existing partner funding. This has meant the council can continue to support measures helping those people furthest from the labour market.

Challenge and change

Bradford in 2018 looks set for even more growth opportunities. With the opening of the second phase of The Broadway shopping centre and other plans for expansion, SkillsHouse will look to support that growth.

SkillsHouse continues to work with employers to develop bespoke employment and programmes that will transform people’s lives and provide a skilled, confident and competent high performing workforce.

Bradford Council sees SkillsHouse as a long-term initiative and continues to invest in it. It has expanded to incorporate delivery in other economic sectors, for example care, and thematic projects such as underemployed women in the workforce and supporting refugees into the labour market. The aspiration is that SkillsHouse becomes the key agent to ‘hiring local’ and exploring how co-location of staff from other related services, including DWP and NCS can improve services.

Marks & Spencer case study

Having traded in Bradford for many years, Marks & Spencer relocated their main Bradford store to The Broadway in November 2015. The team at M&S recruited 22 employees through SkillsHouse for their new store and have gone on to develop a bespoke academy for M&S recruitment in the city. 

The academy helps local people who face barriers getting into work, and may not have been successful with their initial online applications, to gain invaluable work experience and training with M&S. To date the academy, which runs alongside M&S’ own employability scheme - Marks & Start, has helped 51 people access job opportunities, with 43 continuing their role with M&S long term.

The academy is not only helping to recruit employees, it also ties in with M&S’ ambition to play a transformative role in the communities it serves, many of which face enormous challenges. The retailer’s community transformation programme has identified Bradford as one of 10 pilot communities where M&S will trial a range of actions designed to tackle the issues that matter most – such as unemployment, skill shortages, loneliness, poverty, and mental health and wellbeing. The pioneering programme will see M&S work with local councils and charity partners to support communities to deliver positive, measurable change.


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