Attention, jobseekers seeker

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A BUSINESS firm is to create 400 new jobs across the UK, targeting graduates and former military personnel.

Bartercard said that under its expansion plans for this year there will be vacancies in areas including sales and management.

Managing director Tim Ashley Sparks said: “Although qualifications and experience remain valuable within the workplace, for us, excellent soft skills, such as the ability to communicate effectively, forge strong relationships and use your initiative are even more important. These are qualities that people either have or they don’t.

“We’re looking particularly for candidates who have recently graduated or are ex-military and ex-forces because we know they boast skills of self-discipline, organisation and motivation which are key for the roles at Bartercard.”

The company employs 4,000 workers in the UK, offering thousands of different products and services to companies.

Meanwhile, as many as 100,000 people may have found employment during the first year of the Government’s flagship Work Programme, with “a substantial majority” staying in jobs, employment minister Chris Grayling said today.

Mr Grayling said that the programme was delivering a “revolution in welfare-to-work”, with around 22 per cent of those taking part finding jobs, even taking into account the groups who are hardest to place in work, such as the disabled.

But he said there was a “big gulf” in performance among the private companies and charities who are helping place long-term jobless people in work on a “payment by results” basis.

He said he was “completely relaxed” if some organisations drop out of the programme, telling those with poor records: “It’s time to deliver or we’ll find someone else to do it for us.”

Labour said that the Work Programme had failed to deal with Britain’s “jobs crisis”, pointing to a £9bn increase in Government estimates of spending on JobSeeker’s Allowance and Housing Benefit over the next five years.

But Mr Grayling dismissed their criticisms as “nonsense”, insisting that the total number of people on out-of-work benefits has fallen by 70,000 since the election.

, and that any increase in the benefit bill is down to the Government’s decision to increase them in line with higher-than-usual inflation.

In a speech to mark the first anniversary of the Work Programme, Mr Grayling will say that the scheme has outperformed the expectations of the National Audit Office, which in January predicted that only 26% of the easiest-to-help jobseekers would find and keep work.

Early indications suggest that the proportion of job starts among this group is already “well above 26% in much of the country”, Mr Grayling will say.

Information from providers about the first group of people to join the programme last summer suggests that the overall job entry rate, including hard-to-help groups, is about 22% - the equivalent of 60,000 jobs within three and a half months, he will say.

Once people who have joined the programme since September are taken into account, “the total number of unemployed people placed in jobs will now be well on the way to 100,000”.

While there is so far no reliable data on job retention, it is “clear from feedback from the front line that a substantial majority are staying in work once they get there”, Mr Grayling will say.

“Now I don’t want to overplay this,” he will tell the Institute of Economic Affairs thinktank in London.

“It’s early days. The job market is still difficult. The industry is saying that it’s more challenging than they expected, and that achieving goals will be tough.

“But it’s been a decent start.”

Early indications suggest that the programme is “well ahead” of Labour’s Flexible New Deal at the same point, he will say.

The Work Programme has faced criticism from some charities, including St Mungo’s, which have left the scheme after they failed to receive any referrals.

But Mr Grayling will today make clear that he is happy to see organisations drop out if they do not perform.

So far, success rates between different providers have ranged between 18% and 26%, according to industry data.

“That’s a big gulf,” Mr Grayling will say. “I won’t settle for second best, and nor should those relying on providers to help them get their life back on track.

“It’s not acceptable that some providers should only be performing two-thirds as well as their counterparts. Those who have already fallen behind should expect to feel the heat in the months ahead.

“This scheme never was and never will be about providing an income stream for charities or the private sector. And competition means that if you’re not coming up with the results, someone else will, and they’ll get the work.”

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said the programme was stalling, pointing to statistics showing that the proportion of long-term unemployed coming off benefits each month halved from 12% in April 2011 to 6% in April this year.

Mr Byrne cited the chief executive of the Employment Related Services Association, Kirsty McHugh, who said that it was “too early to draw firm conclusions” about the likelihood of the programme achieving its target of placing 36% of long-term claimants in work within two years.

And he quoted ERSA figures suggesting that just 40,000 long-term sick clients have been referred to contractors, rather than the 180,000 expected.

“After just one year, the failures of the Work Programme have created a huge £9 billion benefits black hole at the Department for Work and Pensions,” said Mr Byrne.

“Allegations of fraud and mismanagement are multiplying, while people looking for work are being failed by the out-of-touch Government.

“(Work and Pensions Secretary) Iain Duncan Smith has been asleep at the wheel as his back-to-work programmes have started to stall.”

But Mr Grayling dismissed Labour’s criticisms as “nonsense”, pointing out that the allegations of fraud and mismanagement relate to schemes operated under the previous government and halted by the coalition.

The proportion of long-term unemployed leaving benefits had halved because the Government had stopped Labour’s practice of shifting them onto the Training Allowance, he said.

“Labour are desperate to see the Work Programme fail for party political reasons,” said the employment minister.

“I think it is disgraceful to try to undermine essential work being done to help the long term unemployed. The Work Programme is already making a real difference to thousands of unemployed people.”