Falkirk is signposting new ways into work

Baker Eddie Marshall with apprentice Stephanie Dick ''Picture: Michel Gillen
Baker Eddie Marshall with apprentice Stephanie Dick ''Picture: Michel Gillen
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Helping people into work took on a whole different approach in the Falkirk area with the launch of a new partnership.

Billed as a gateway to filling the skills gap through training and employment for people of all ages, those involved in Falkirk Connected hope joint working will lead to success by matching the right people with the right job.

Public sector partners Falkirk Council, Department for Works and Pensions, Skills Development Scotland and Forth Valley College were already providing all the services but, by working together, they hope to make it easier for employers and those looking for jobs to access the help they need.

Support already provided through initiatives such as Backing Falkirk’s Future and other services from Falkirk Council’s employment and training unit will continue, with the introduction of Falkirk Connected acting as the single ‘signpost’ for employers to access all the help on offer.

Unveiled last Thursday against the historic backdrop of Callendar House, the new brand is seen as the way forward for 21st century employment assistance.

While Falkirk Connected replaces Backing Falkirk’s Future, it will continue the objectives of the last 10 years to help more young people gain skills and work experience.

Other services and benefits currently available through the employment and training unit, such as access to wage and training subsidies for employers, will also continue to be on offer via Falkirk Connected.

Councillor Craig Martin is leader of Falkirk Council and also chairs the Community Planning Partnership, which helps public agencies work together with the community to plan and deliver better services.

He said: “Introducing Falkirk Connected was about providing people and employers with a simpler way to tap into the various different services and support that the council and our public sector partners provide for workforce development. It’s a brand that acts as a single signpost, connecting everything to make it easier for businesses to recruit and support young people.

“The creation of Falkirk Connected also demonstrates a long-term commitment from our partners to work with us to tackle youth unemployment and support our business community.”

Billy Howie, employer and partnership manager from the Department of Works and Pensions, said: “DWP is really pleased to be working with our partners to provide this service to local employers and businesses so that they get all the information and support they need to meet their business needs.”

Brian Hermiston, Skills Development Scotland’s SME support services manager, said: “We are pleased to be involved in the partnership. The local approach underpins the national offer to employers, including Our Skills Force, and we hope businesses take advantage of all the advice and support available.”

Also welcoming the move, Colette Filippi, Forth Valley College’s associate principal for business development, said; “This exciting new brand is a simpler and more effective way of engaging with our local employers and supporting their training needs.

“All the partners associated with Falkirk Connected are committed to supporting young people entering the workforce and equipping them with the skills and knowledge employers seek.”

Helping young people find work has always been a major task for Falkirk Council’s employment training unit and one that has now been taken over by Falkirk Connected.

Outreach Ltd and Marshall’s Family Bakers are two local companies. completely different in size and the services they provide, but having one thing in common – they want to give young people the training and skills for future employment.

Middlefield-based Outreach, Scotland’s largest independent leaser of truck-mounted access equipment, currently has 10 apprentices, including Ruairidh McDonald (17), of Shieldhill, who joined them last November as the firm’s first-ever parts department apprentice. The other nine are all learning skills in the workshops.

HR manager Elinor McLauchlan said: “We struggle to find staff with the skills we require which is why we run such an aggressive apprenticeship programme. We make them the best we can and give them the chance to have a really good career with us.

“We’ve worked closely with the council’s employment training unit and look forward to continuing that relationship with Falkirk Connected.”

Stephanie Dick (18), of Whitecross, is a second year bakery apprentice with Marshall’s and has already achieved her SVQ Level Two.

Boss Eddie Marshall said after launching his business in Manor Street, Falkirk, two years ago, he quickly realised that he needed an assistant.

He said: “Falkirk Council has helped by paying 50 per cent of Stephanie’s wages and funds the training up to Level Two. It’s great, because all the training is done in-house by myself and verified by Scottish Bakers.

“She gets the opportunity to learn a range of skills and I get a properly trained member of staff which is vital for a small business. Through Falkirk Connected I’m hoping that there will also be benefits for myself such as mentoring.”