Case study

Library support to jobseekers

Gateshead library services' programme of work supporting jobseekers and young people in libraries

Video games ambassadors event. Photo credit: Gateshead libraries
Video games ambassadors event. Photo credit: Gateshead libraries

Contribution to corporate priorities

Gateshead library services’ programme of work supporting jobseekers in libraries contributes to the council’s portfolio for economy and employment support. Gateshead’s council plan for 2015-20 has a number of shared outcomes, including ‘Prosperous Gateshead – a thriving economy for all’, which aims to provide:

  • more and better paid jobs and more people in work
  • fewer people with low level skills and more people with higher level skills through:
    • improved educational attainment
    • increased learning and development
  • more private, public and social investment
  • an increase in the working age population

Support to jobseekers from libraries and careers events as detailed helps to achieve this, and to support local people getting back into work.

Jobseekers in libraries

As a service they were conscious that they were spending an increasing amount of time supporting jobseekers. A 2014 library computer user survey revealed that 48% of computer users are using library computers to job search. This equates to over 6,000 people. A follow up survey of library customers who are jobseekers found that the majority:

  • of jobseekers in libraries have been long term unemployed (over a year)
  • are male and aged between 50 and 64
  • relied on the library to access a computer for job seeking
  • 50% had already received computer training whilst unemployed

In addition:

  • 17% also used the job centre
  • 17% also used a computer at a friend or relatives house
  • only 10% used a computer at home

This research was used to inform discussions with Gateshead council’s economic development service about how they might work together to provide employment support. They are also commencing discussions with the Department of Work and Pensions about a partnership approach to jobseeker support.

Description of the work and the relationship

The library service’s support to jobseekers has evolved over time and responds to demand from customers. However, many jobseekers are not proficient with IT and rely on library staff for day to day support with job searching. The migration of government services to the Universal Jobmatch service online has led to a sharp increase in demand for on going, regular support. As a result library staff have become very familiar with the Universal Jobmatch web site and problem troubleshooting.

The service responds to requests for help immediately but often due to staffing commitments, the amount of time initially spent with a customer may be limited. The resolution has been to signpost customers to the weekly Jobclub held at the central library. This scheduling ensures that staff are available to help with job seeking support. In other branch libraries, customers may book a one-to-one session and a few formal taught courses are aimed at jobseekers. The courses include, ‘Email for employability’, a 3 week programme helping jobseekers to set up an email account and use it confidently to look for work. The service has also invested in an online service, ‘MyWorkSearch’ to help people look for work and to write a CV.

Alongside this support for jobseekers, a different strand of our work has been to inform and motivate young people into a career in the creative industries; a growing area of employment in our region. Building on events we have held to showcase new technologies; we work in partnership with games giant Reflections: Ubisoft who have an office locally, to demonstrate the breadth of careers in the sector and the skills needed to succeed. With Ubisoft we have delivered two ‘Video Games Ambassadors’ events, which have offered a mixture of talks and hands on workshops.

Views on the events held with Reflections: Ubisoft

150 people attended each of the two events with Reflections: Ubisoft and the following comments were received from event participants:

  • ‘It has helped my son choose a future direction’
  • ‘This event was really interesting and very helpful towards my career choice and I have received so much information regards what I can do in the future to help me to go into the gaming industry’
  • ‘Really interesting the team from Ubisoft were very friendly and engaging. My boys were inspired’
  • ‘Amazing to meet people who are doing what I am wanting to do, really helpful’

Accomplishments / lessons learnt

It is important to undertake analysis on who jobseekers are and to understand their needs. When Gateshead libraries had this hard data to back up their case it definitely encouraged interest from partners.

The Reflections: Ubisoft events have been very successful, largely due to good partnership working. It takes time to build these partnerships and they are constantly developing their networks and meeting new providers. Now that Gateshead library service have a good track record for delivery, people are keen to get involved and the council’s economic development section is now supporting their work with young people.

Future plans

Gateshead library service is planning a Careers event to be held in 2016 at the Central Library with a range of IT providers. Again the intention is to enthuse young people to have a career in this industry by meeting local providers and hearing about the range of work they do.

Longer term they will continue to build external partnerships and secure funding for the work they do.

Contact for further information: libraries@gateshead.gov.uk

Published 29 January 2016