Wheatley Group on target to help 2,500 of Scotland’s most disadvantaged into work

(from left) Sir Harry Burns, chair of the Wheatley Foundation, trainees and apprentices Jordan Penny, Amy McAinsh, Liz McInulty, Wheatley Group director of housing and care, Olga Clayton, Wheatley apprentice, Oliver Graham, employability and training minister, Jamie Hepburn, Wheatley Group director of resources, Elaine Melrose

Wheatley Group is on target to create 2,500 new jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities by 2020 for people in some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities.

The announcement was made in Glasgow at the launch of its new pre-employability scheme, Wheatley Works, by Scotland’s employment and training minister Jamie Hepburn MSP.

The ground-breaking programme will help tenants of Wheatley’s six housing associations to get “work ready” for the employment and training opportunities being created by the group and its contractors.

Over 1200 jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities have been created since 2015 and now - through its charitable organisation Wheatley Foundation – it plans to create a further 1300 over the next two years.

Foundation chairman Sir Harry Burns said: “Unemployment in Scotland is falling and a record number of jobs is being created. But the sad fact is that many people of working age in Wheatley homes are still out of work.

“The group is tackling this by creating hundreds of new jobs and the Foundation - through this exciting new work-ready scheme – will help tenants who need support to develop the skills and confidence to take advantage of the employment opportunities available to them.”

Sir Harry, professor of global public health at the University of Strathclyde and Scotland’s former chief medical officer, added: “It is a harsh reality of today’s world that a significant number of people – young and older – simply do not have the confidence, ability, resilience or wherewithal to apply for, obtain and retain a job or build a career. We are seeking to address this by offering personalised, professional support to enable them to access opportunities available to them.”

Wheatley, the largest builder of social rented homes in the UK, employs 2,000 people across Scotland and a further 2,000 at City Building (Glasgow), its joint venture with Glasgow City Council.

Foundation director Lorraine McLaren explained Wheatley Works would offer tenants and their children, many of whom are either long-term unemployed or who have not worked since leaving school or college, everything from two-week work placements at Wheatley offices across Scotland to a six-week trade skills programme at City Building’s training academy.

“Wheatley Works will provide new, personalised support to people unable to access the job market, while bringing under one roof all of the various programmes Wheatley already has in place,” added Lorraine.

These include:

  • recruitment of up to 60 Modern Apprentices each year from Wheatley communities across Scotland;
  • a pre-apprenticeship scheme focusing on trades, administration and environment works;
  • the Wheatley Pledge, which has incentivised employers to provide over 220 jobs, apprenticeships and training for people from Wheatley homes since 2015;
  • Way Ahead, which has helped over 220 people to overcome “barriers to work”, such as homelessness or addictions;
  • a Changing Lives environmental programme that has created 114 placements since 2016;
  • and Community Benefits clauses in all new-build and investment contracts, resulting in 424 jobs and training opportunities in the last three years, with 223 opportunities created since 2015.
  • Employability and training minister Jamie Hepburn said: “The Wheatley Group should be commended for their new employability and training initiative, Wheatley Works which will help people to achieve their potential through a joined up approach.

    “Wheatley Works also complements our new devolved employment support service, Fair Start Scotland, which treats people with fairness, dignity and respect and aims to support a minimum of 38,000 people, who want help to find and stay in work. We encourage Wheatley Group and others involved in employability support to work with their local Fair Start Scotland provider to ensure services are joined up and responsive to local economies.

    “The Scottish Government recognises that better integration and alignment of employment support with areas including justice, housing, and health, will ensure that we have a collective platform for successful delivery of services that make a difference to people’s lives. We have already set out our next steps outlining a comprehensive range of activity to join up employability support across Scotland, ensuring a solid platform which we will build on in the future.”

    GHA, Wheatley’s largest subsidiary and Scotland’s biggest Registered Social Landlord, has created 10,000 jobs and training opportunities in the past decade through its £1.8 billion investment plan, and a further 5000 training opportunities from other employability programmes since 2005.

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