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Employment Minister: Recruitment diversity holds key to unlocking skills gap

The minister has called upon business leaders to match their warm words with positive action, after a poll found that the vast majority said they were ready and willing to take on staff from disadvantaged groups.

Six out of ten companies say they would be happy to employ a homeless person and nearly seven out of ten say they would trust an ex-offender’s work skills and capability, according to the findings of a YouGov survey.

Yet the reality on the ground seems very different, with talents and skills available amongst these groups – as well as the long-term unemployed, people recovering from drug or alcohol dependencies, and care leavers – all too often overlooked.

Employment Minister, Priti Patel, said, "As our economy continues to recover and grow, so will demand for skills and labour – yet our ageing society will present increasing demographic challenges. To thrive in the long term, businesses need to identify talent and potential wherever it exists.

"Of course I understand the pressures businesses are under, but I want our bosses to start seeing potential instead of problems. This is about securing a better future for British business, just as much as it is about giving people a second chance."

The financial benefits to employers of casting the net as far wide as possible in the search for new talent are supported by further research. Almost half of companies surveyed recently by Business in the Community said that they had seen a direct positive financial impact by supporting people from disadvantaged backgrounds back into work.

The call by the Employment Minister is intended to promote debate about how businesses can do more to boost their profits, while spreading hope and opportunity to people in difficult circumstances.

Patel added, "If we want to become a higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare country, as the Chancellor set out in his Budget, then we need to make sure everyone is benefitting from our jobs growth. And businesses have a major role to play in this.

"As a key part of our long term economic plan, the Work Programme has helped more than 400,000 people into lasting jobs, pushing long-term unemployment to its lowest level in more than five years. The number of people claiming unemployment benefits is at its lowest since 1975. The onus is now on businesses to be open minded and work to access the hidden talent across society."

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