The community interest company The Work People, a re-branding of the Hastings Works recruitment and training enterprise centred in Robertson Street, has secured new funding totalling £107,000 from a joint venture initiative put together by four housing organisations.  These four – Orbit, who manage extensive housing units in Hastings, plus the Clarion Housing Group, L & Q, and the Peabody Group – are channelling funds obtained from the Big Lottery Fund and Big Society Capital to form the Community Impact Partnership (CIP). Their aim is to support local regeneration in areas where they operate. The Work People is the first enterprise selected to benefit.

Of the £107,000 offered to The Work People, £37,500 is in the form of a one-off grant. The rest is on loan, repayable over five years at 7% interest.

Dave Hinton, founder and managing director of The Work People, says that the money is arriving at the right time to take the company “to the next level”. First and foremost he needs to increase management capacity, finding someone to take the role of operations manager, so that he has his time freed up to develop the business strategically. He wants to develop the brand beyond Hastings and he believes that, in order to do so, he will need to improve management impact systems. This means measuring the links between the careers advice and practical training which the company provides, and the employment goals which they should lead to:  “knowing what impact we’re having – what works and what doesn’t”.

He set up Hastings Works as a social enterprise company five years ago at the age of 29.  He had previously worked in careers and training roles for Hastings Borough Council and for Sussex Downs College, but says he became frustrated with the lack of opportunity to innovate in matching would-be recruits with the needs of local employers.

The enterprise currently functions on three levels: as careers advisor to individual job-seekers who want to shape their future work opportunities; as provider of training courses to equip them with fresh or enhanced skills; and as employment agency, finding specific jobs, permanent or temporary, in the local economy.

Mr Hinton says: “Our mission is for everyone to have good working lives. We started in April 2013 and our services have proved very successful: last year we helped 1,600 people with careers advice and over 400 people complete pre-employment training.”

Current courses include: basic English, maths and IT use; personal development and employability; introductions to hospitality and catering; to business admin; to retail and customer service; to childcare and adult social care; to the construction industry; and to
the security industry. Over 90% of them are delivered by third parties funded by the national Skills Funding Agency.  And there could be more: Mr Hinton says that the adult education budget is often underspent locally, i.e. there is more money available if targeted to appropriate demand.

The employment agency operates competitively alongside private recruitment firms, and like them charges employers on a commission basis. Although Mr Hinton thinks that there is a proper place for zero hour contracts in matching some employers’ desire for a flexible work force with suitable recruits, he is concerned that too many agencies are using umbrella payroll companies which effectively leave workers without holiday rights or other employment protections. The company has always aimed to be “ethical”, advising prospective workers in their best longterm interests rather than just aiming to secure immediate commissions.

The CIP has issued a press release with a comment from its chair Penny Hembrow: “Seeing this first fund come to life with the announcement of The Work People is really exciting, and I am delighted that this fund will make such a positive impact from the onset.  The funding here will continue to help so many more people in Hastings secure training and find employment through services which they would not otherwise have had access to.”

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