The ground-breaking WHP JETS programme, which helped thousands of people find jobs, training opportunities or wellbeing support in Greater Manchester during the pandemic, is set to be extended until 2023.
Following the outbreak of the pandemic, Greater Manchester’s devolved powers meant the city-region could quickly respond and support people who were at risk of losing their jobs or became newly unemployed. WHP JETs is the equivalent of the national Job Entry Targeted Support service but because of devolution, it was locally commissioned, designed and set up. The programme is a joint partnership between Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), Ingeus and The Growth Company, Rochdale, Oldham and Bolton Councils, as well as the Get Set Academy. Service users are provided with a variety of support ranging from one-to-one coaching, CV writing, interview skills, job searches and well-being support.
Working Well was first launched in 2014 by GMCA and has since developed into a range of schemes tailored to suit individual needs.
The Working Well suite of programmes include the Working Well Work and Health Programme (WHP), which supports unemployed people with health conditions or a disability, and the Specialist Employment Service, set up to support people with learning disabilities, autism and mental illness. GMCA has also developed Early Help, to support people at risk of falling out of work or if they have become newly-unemployed due to a health issue, and EnterprisingYou, which helps self-employed people with training and employment opportunities.
Caroline, 59, of Rochdale, signed up for support with WHP JETS after she was made redundant from her legal secretary role last year as a result of the pandemic. After receiving advice and attending a workshop, Caroline was offered a new legal secretary position at a company in Salford.
Caroline said: “The whole process of looking for a new role was soul destroying when you spend hours completing application forms and never even receive a response. I had relevant experience for many of these jobs so I came to the conclusion that my age was viewed negatively. Even my friends thought that I should be looking for ways to retire.
“I cannot praise JETS support enough. My Ingeus coach, Danielle Emanuel, was not only a tower of strength and enthusiastic, but inspirational too. It was reassuring to hear that being unemployed isn’t your fault and not to take it personally. It is a very competitive jobs market at the moment.
“Now I am working again as a legal secretary with a company based in Salford. My advice to other jobseekers is if you’re not initially successful, never give up hope. There are people who can help you be successful.”
Greater Manchester leaders are set to agree to extend WHP JETS for another 12 months to offer people further support, as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme comes to an end on 30 September which is expected to put more jobs at risk. An additional investment of £6,737,400 has been secured from the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) to help extend the programme.
Devolution has been key to the success of Greater Manchester’s Working Well programme. Through the support of Job Centre Plus and the DWP, as well as partnership working with agencies across the city-region, Working Well is an example of how locally created solutions can make a difference to the lives of individuals in the city-region. Greater Manchester’s extended powers meant WHP JETS could be set up in record time and adapt quickly to home working, with more than 10,000 people registered in the programme in under a year. Laptops were distributed to those in need, while Adult Skills Coordinators helped with training people to use IT to work from home.
Partnership working has also been key to the success of Working Well. A pilot project between Ingeus and APCOA Parking, an international company with an operating base in Wigan, has helped jobseekers on the Working Well WHP programme find work opportunities.
The partnership meant WHP participant, John Gaskell, was able to find a position as an administration assistant – his first paid role since being made redundant two years ago. He was given support by Sharon McGarvey, Employer Services Account Manager, to help obtain the role.
John, 41, of Wigan, said: “Ingeus has really supported me in my search for work. They looked at my skills and Sharon gave me such confidence as I prepared for my interview. I am delighted that I was offered a contract afterwards.
“Life has not always been easy for me, especially when I was at school. I have a learning problem that I manage, but I need extra time sometimes to understand new information.
“Everyone has been so helpful and I’m really enjoying my job. I just love to keep busy and when I am not working in the office, I volunteer two days a week at a charity shop.”
Councillor Andrew Western, GMCA lead for Digital, Works, Skills and Clean Air, said: “In Greater Manchester we do not turn our back on people in times of need. JETS was set up in response to the coronavirus pandemic and has helped thousands of people find employment through support with CV writing, job searches and interview skills.
“Working Well has been a huge success in Greater Manchester and the figures speak for themselves – more than 20,000 people have been supported since March last year. Caroline and John’s experiences shows how Working Well programmes have had a real impact on people’s lives.”