Keeping clients moving

Making sure our clients have the right skill sets for the workplace is vital to their social mobility, says Asi Panditharatna.

Read the full article in DDN Magazine

Asi Panditharatna divisional director of employment services at The Forward Trust
Asi Panditharatna is divisional director of employment services at The Forward Trust

The recently published report Social Mobility in Great Britain – State of the Nation 2018-19 has highlighted a number of concerns for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. We believe this applies to many of the clients we support who are in substance misuse recovery – particularly those from low-skilled, unemployed, NEET (not in education, employment or training) backgrounds.

The report confirms that people in low paid roles tend to get stuck there and are more likely to be from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Connected to this, those with the least skills are unlikely to get training and higher or degree level apprenticeships.

This is against a backdrop of two-thirds of the reported growth in UK employment (with around 75 per cent of people aged 16-64 now in work) having been in ‘atypical’ roles such as zero-hours contracts or agency work that do not provide job satisfaction, security or contractual rights. Such roles can make it hard to plan for the longer term, such as obtaining a mortgage.

The report also highlights that those with fewer skills are the least likely to get the training they need to support their progression in the workplace. The new apprenticeship standards led by employers have the potential to be a powerful vehicle for social mobility, but the reality is not as clear cut; those from lower socio-economic backgrounds are clustered in lower-returning and lower-level apprenticeships and are not benefiting as much as their more affluent peers.

As automation changes the world of work, these divides could worsen – workers in low-paid roles with low qualifications are most at risk of their work being automated but least likely to access training to reskill.

This may seem like a bleak outlook, but the solution lies in establishing a firmer foundation for the future – access to skills, training and job opportunities with a clear career trajectory.

At The Forward Trust, our approaches to achieving this include focusing on promoting talent with employers so they are not just looking at managing risks with people in recovery. We also make sure employability and vocational training support is aimed at people having maths, English (contextualised for work) and the digital skills to find a job and then succeed in their role.

The solution also includes helping clients to access higher-level government apprenticeships that offer progression and promotion routes. We are focusing on progressing people into higher level qualifications, for example our new ESFA ESF contracts are training people in customer service diploma level qualifications, so they can access higher paid roles in the digital sector in London.

As younger people from disadvantaged backgrounds do not necessarily have the support networks to give them a leg-up in their career, another component for success is giving them access to a network of peer support – so that clients, learners and service users can also draw on one another for help, as well as tapping into each other’s networks for jobs.

In essence, it’s about creating a range of different pathways for people to access better-paid employment – including jobs, apprenticeships, traineeships, self-employment and setting up a business/social enterprise – as well as the support networks to bolster this and ultimately drive social mobility.

To celebrate Employability Day on 28 June, we are planning an employers’ roundtable to discuss these issues around talent and progression.

For more information about Forward Trust’s employment services, see


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