Back to the Future as Obair celebrates 20 years
Pictured: Marie Price Bolger (ILDN), Minister Eoghan Murphy, Mr. Gerry Keogh (LESN), Dr. Mary Murphy (NUIM), Dr. John Sweeney (Labour Market Council).
On Monday March 6th 2017 Eoghan Murphy, Minister of State at the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform, with special responsibility for Financial Services, eGovernment and Public Procurement, formally opened the event in St. Andrew’s Resource Centre celebrating 20 years of the Local Employment Service Network.
The format included a round table discussion and panel discussion on how best to provide a Quality Guidance Service to the Unemployed. Speakers included Dr. Mary Murphy, NUIM, who has recently conducted a review of LES, as well as Brid O Brien from the INOU, employers and clients.
The event was chaired by Marie Price Bolger, Chairperson of Irish Local Development Network (ILDN), the umbrella group of Local Partnership companies who manage the LES in 23 of the 26 areas in which these are located.
The LES is a year on year successful community based service progressing jobseekers from Social welfare to education, training and work. In the 4 years from 2012-2015 the numbers placed in employment average 9,000 per year, many of whom were long term unemployed. This helped deliver the workforce which then contributed to meeting the targets set in the annual Action Plan for Jobs, initiated in 2012 by Minister Mitchell O’Connor’s Department, & operates in conjunction with Pathways to Work, the action plan of the Department of Social Protection.
When the Local Employment Service (LES) was established 20 years ago Ireland was a very different place. Unemployment was seen as almost intractable, with thousands of jobseekers facing multiple barriers in accessing work. LES was established as a not for profit, publicly funded employment service, reporting directly to the then Department of Enterprise & Employment, all but 2 of these (including Kildare) were managed by Partnership Companies whose remit was to tackle poverty and disadvantage.
The LES was rolled out across 26 areas of the country, concentrating on areas of high unemployment. Its mission was to implement and deliver strategies to re-integrate long term unemployed people through the provision of guidance and placement services, acting as a gateway to all employment and training programmes. This intensive and ongoing support was aimed at the particular needs of each individual, utilising the resources of other relevant agencies involved in training and education provision and interventions such as literacy and counselling support where required.
The unemployment crisis caused by the recession necessitated a shift of focus for the LES, which responded by offering its services to all unemployed people, including those recently unemployed.
Now with the welcome news of a drop in unemployment the LES, which since 2012 are under contract to the Department of Social Protection, can again focus its expertise and resources on those who are deemed distant from the labour market. By working with a smaller caseload, staff can offer more intensive and ongoing supports and assist in preventing the drift by many into long term unemployment. This is achieved by developing core skills improving a person's resilience, self-belief and confidence and by identifying and working through barriers to support that person to become job ready.
The focus of the event on March 6th enabled the LES to respond to the needs of a changing work environment and to use innovative practices which will meet the challenges of assisting jobseekers to overcome barriers and move along the road to employment.