The erstwhile NI21 European election candidate, Tina McKenzie - now heading up the Department of Employment and Learning’s (DEL) off-the-dole operation in the old City shirt factory in Queen Street - says her company will deliver better back-to-work support than previous incarnations.
Mrs McKenzie, who acquired a high profile as a Catholic unionist candidate in last May’s European elections, heads up EOS Ltd., which will be delivering DEL’s new Steps to Success employment programme to help unemployed people build the skills and experience they need to find and keep a job.
Previous programmes to address joblessness in the worst unemployment black spot in Northern Ireland have had varying levels of success.
When DEL introduced Steps to Work as a more flexible alternative to the controversial New Deal programme, which was criticised in 2009 for providing a ‘poor return for taxpayers’ money,’ Londonderry was the last place in Northern Ireland to experience the roll-out.
Steps to Work was introduced by DEL in 2008. But most jobseekers in Foyle were still on New Deal in 2011/12.
Meanwhile, when Steps to Work was eventually rolled out here, the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) criticised some elements of the programme for failing to meet some back-to-work targets.
But during a visit to the new Employment and Training Centre in Londonderry, the EOS NI Managing Director vowed that her company would offer a bespoke face-to-face service and get more people back to work.
She said: “We are very proud to be delivering this programme on behalf of DEL in the northern region.
“We see helping the unemployed to find work as essential, not just for the economy but for the wider society. It is now our job to provide a bespoke service to each Steps 2 Success participant to ensure they achieve their job goals and move into sustained employment.”
She highlighted the importance of working with employers to ensure Steps 2 Success is a success.
“Our approach is to work with local employers to identify their current and future staffing needs, existing skills gaps and challenges in sourcing quality candidates. This informs our face-to-face work and the training and development of potential candidates.”
EOS NI has invested in their two state-of-the-art Employment Training Centres in Foyle and Newtownabbey. The Centres provide participants with on-site training and work experience in purpose built training facilities. Employers are also invited to become a ‘host employer’ and replicate real business activities and provide participants with business specific knowledge and skills to meet their recruitment needs.
EOS NI are supported by a carefully selected supply chain delivering the service locally across the rest of the region covering Strabane, Limavady, Coleraine, Ballymoney, Ballymena, Moyle, Larne, Antrim, and Carrickfergus.