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An introduction to the sector-based work academy programme
The sector-based work academy programme (SWAP) can support you to create a skilled workforce for your business. Sector-based work academies help prepare those receiving unemployment benefits to apply for jobs in a different area of work. Placements are designed to help meet your immediate and future recruitment needs as well as to recruit a workforce with the right skills to sustain and grow your business. SWAP is administered by Jobcentre Plus and available in England and Scotland.
A sector-based work academy can last up to 6 weeks. Placements have 3 main components:
- pre-employment training – matched to the needs of your business sector
- work experience placement – a great opportunity for your business to identify talent and for the individual to cement their knowledge and understanding of the required role
- a guaranteed job interview or help with an employer’s recruitment process
An important feature of SWAP is that each sector-based work academy offers a flexible approach and can be adapted to meet the needs of your business. Placements are particularly useful for young people but are open to all jobseekers aged 18 upwards.
If you are unable to offer all 3 components, Jobcentre Plus staff may be able to work with you to overcome this, such as enabling you to join together with other similar employers in a consortium approach.
Participants remain on benefits while on a SWAP placement. The government will pay any travel and childcare costs whilst benefit claimants are on the scheme. There is no direct cost to an employer for running a sector-based work academy as training and administration costs are covered by government funding.
The government is committed to ensuring that people looking for employment have the essential skills to succeed in the workplace. Jobcentre Plus, colleges and other training providers want to work with employers like you to design the content of sector-specific training that meets the needs of your business and those of the labour market.
In England, SWAP training is fully funded through the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and delivered by further education colleges and training providers. The training will enable participants to undertake units on the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF).
In Scotland, sector-based work academy training may be fully funded through Skills Development Scotland or other partner organisations and delivered by further education colleges and training providers.
Employers and/or other partner organisations are able to deliver their own training, where appropriate.
Jobcentre Plus will work with you to design the most relevant package that supports your recruitment needs.
Work experience placement
A work experience placement in your business will enable participants to develop their skills and have the opportunity to work in a realistic environment. The length of a SWAP work experience placement is determined at the initial discussion between you and Jobcentre Plus and it provides invaluable benefits for both businesses and individuals. The pre-employment training can be combined with the work experience placement if this is the best way to deliver the placement.
The main principle to supporting participants during the placement should be to treat them as regular employees as far as possible, whilst they remain on benefits. Participants may be supported further through additional coaching and supervision. Preparing for the work experience placement will ensure that you and the participant will get the most from this experience.
In order for both businesses and individuals to benefit from the work placement element, Jobcentre Plus will ask that you:
- explain what you need the scheme’s participants to do
- inform them of management and reporting arrangements
- encourage positive working relationships
- provide an overview of your business and its values and culture
- give a tour of the workplace
- provide guidance on using any equipment
- provide guidance on health and safety
- explain standard workplace practices such as security procedures, dress code, sick leave and absences and break times
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has brought many challenges for employers. If it is not possible to offer the same level of work experience as before, Jobcentres will work with you to look at how you can provide SWAP participants with a proper practical understanding of what the job will entail. This might include:
- a comprehensive tour of the workplace
- job shadowing
- talking to current employees
- the use of a simulated workplace environment for example a mock workplace in a college or
- the use of an online environment (for example a call centre training system which simulates the actual job)
Employer Advisers in Jobcentre Plus can help you to develop other ways to deliver some form of a work placement within the constraints brought about by coronavirus (COVID-19).
Guaranteed job interview
A guaranteed job interview for one of your vacancies will provide participants with valuable interview experience and allow you to select the most appropriate candidate for the job.
Many companies use specialist methods of recruitment, for example through online aptitude testing. If your usual recruitment process means you cannot commit to the guaranteed job interview, then alternative arrangements can be made to support participants through your recruitment process. Participants should be offered a guaranteed job interview wherever possible.
You may also want to consider whether an apprenticeship opportunity would be of benefit to your business at this time. As the participant will be part-qualified you may wish to consider employing them on an apprenticeship to build upon their training.
How your business could benefit
Your business could benefit from offering SWAP placements for the following reasons:
- this is a flexible programme that can be tailored to meet your recruitment needs
- you can recruit staff with the right training and skills from the outset, developed through fully-funded pre-employment training
- an opportunity to provide work experience placements for potential employees to ensure they are suited to that type of role and your company
- work experience placements allow developmental opportunities for existing employees, for example by working on their mentoring, supervisory and coaching skills
- reduces the risks within the overall process of recruiting new employees
- an opportunity for positive publicity to show how like-minded businesses are working together to meet their social responsibilities
Where to get further information
If you are interested in offering a sector-based work academy, or would like further information about the services available to support your recruitment needs, please contact the Employer Services Line on 0800 169 0178. They can offer advice and will be able to put you in touch with a local Jobcentre Plus employer team.