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Does business do enough to help disadvantaged groups into work?

I never did my GCSEs. The only work I managed to get was factory work, and I hadn’t even had any of that for four or five years before I went to jail. I’d given up a bit.

I felt that I didn’t have any training or experience and that no one would ever want to employ me. It was depressing. I had nothing to do and I needed money. I guess that’s why eventually I got caught up in crime. I was convicted for importing a Class A drug and sentenced to seven years.

Prison wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The prison organised some training for me so I now have NVQ Level 2 qualifications in IT and beauty therapy. And then Greggs the bakers helped me to get my current job. They did things like interview workshops and shop assistant training in the prison, and then two weeks after my release I started in the store, serving behind the till. I’ve met some nice people working here, and I’ve got some self-respect back. I feel as if I have options now, compared to five or six years ago.”

Team Member, Greggs, Birmingham

You might know Greggs for their fresh, tasty food on the go, but did you also know that they have a long history of supporting local communities? And that they have won awards for their work inclusion programmes?

As a successful business, Greggs believes they have a responsibility to help disadvantaged groups and have held this belief right from their humble beginnings as a small family business through to their current position as the UK’s leading bakery food-on-the-go retailer.

In the past two years, Greggs has helped over 300 people develop employability skills, recruited 140 long-term unemployed people, of which 32 were young people and 17 ex-offenders.

But do all businesses do enough? Greggs have learnt a lot from their work inclusion programmes and are now helping other organisations develop plans to implement their own.

Here, Greggs share their three top tips on how business can give a whole range of people opportunities to succeed in life, based on their long standing values — “treating everyone with fairness, consideration and respect”.

Ready to Work: Developed in conjunction with prisons and probation trusts, this programme provides offenders and ex-offenders with assessment and interview experience.
A Taste of Greggs: Developed in partnership with Job Centre Plus, this programme offers work experience placements and, where possible, employment to young people.
Work Programme: Shaped for Greggs by various work providers this programme helps us to support the longer term unemployed through the provision of work experience and, where possible, paid employment.
A strong purpose

All Greggs’ programmes have a common purpose — to help reduce high unemployment rates amongst disadvantaged groups by improving skills and offering paid employment where possible.

The three programmes are aimed at offenders and ex-offenders; young people; and, the longer-term unemployed. Ultimately they are trying to break the re-offending/benefit related cycles, reduce the cost of these to society and encourage other businesses to get involved.

Senior management support

Greggs’ work inclusion programme has the full support of senior management. Today it is championed by Roisin Currie, Greggs People Director. But the unsung heroes of the programmes are the implementers of the programme in Greggs’ regional support, bakery and shop teams – it is their commitment that allows Greggs to develop the work inclusion initiatives.

Well-designed programmes

Support: Greggs take very small numbers of people on the programme at any one time so we can give proper care and attention.

Focused training: Working with a small number of work providers, Greggs focuses on training for specific workplace skills, such as food safety and customer service, as well as general employability skills to help develop daily routines.

Assistance: Greggs provides lunch, transport if required, the right footwear and uniform and all this helps participants to settle into the role quickly.

Reinvestment: Greggs have reinvested funding from the Youth Contract back into the work that they do with disadvantaged work groups.

Starter packs: To support candidates as they settle back into their new environments, Greggs will be offering a “starter pack” to any ex-offender that has been successfully involved in our programme, comprising basic goods such as bed linen, kettle, toaster, cutlery, and towels.


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Are businesses doing enough to combat bias in the workplace?
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