New report finds sector-based support can help businesses to tackle in-work poverty

A new report commissioned by the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) as part of their Joseph Rowntree Foundation ‘More Jobs, Better Jobs’ partnership reveals that a sector-based approach to support could help to address low pay and in-work poverty in the City Region.

Three sectors, manufacturing & engineering, social care and transport & logistics, were identified because of their fundamental roles in the future economic growth of the City Region, their specific barriers to in-work progression or tackling low pay and their potential to generate inclusive growth.

Specific challenges to support progression from low pay were found to exist in each sector.

  • The social care sector reported ‘qualification ceilings’ restricting employees’ progression without the right qualifications and technical experience.
  • In the manufacturing & engineering sector barriers to progression were directly linked to the businesses’ own pace of growth and the nature of an SME’s organisational structure.
  • Interviewees from the transport & logistics sectors cited a mismatch between shift patterns and local public transport, particularly for lower paid staff who do not have access to their own vehicle.

The report found three approaches could significantly increase progression from low pay.

  • A universal offer, working across all businesses regardless of sector or size, could help businesses to build a basic but solid foundation for progression, including interventions such as coaching and mentoring, using performance management systems and improving overall levels of literacy and IT.
  • A sector offer, plotting career pathways, implementing sector-led pay scales and supporting staff through technical qualifications were identified as part of the sector-specific approach.
  • And an individual offer, unique to each business, found interventions such as job rotation, succession planning and introducing workplace champions could be viable solutions.

Cllr Peter Box, Inclusive growth lead for the Combined Authority and Leader of Wakefield Council said: “Enabling our City Region workers to move out of low pay and above the poverty line is fundamental to tackling poverty and growing the economy in a way that benefits everyone. It is unacceptable to me that households with at least one member in employment now account for the many of the working-age households in poverty.

“This report presents an exciting and practical solution of addressing social mobility through business and their sectors. By helping businesses to help themselves and raise the skills of their workforce we will likely see improvements in competitiveness, productivity and growth which will ultimately lead to higher wages and more and better jobs.”

Nicky Denison, Director of Wordfern Consultancy Ltd and author of the report said: “It is evident that workforce progression is extremely important to our City Region businesses.

“The social care sector, for example, is a growing sector that presents a wealth of opportunities for people to build fulfilling and varied careers with good scope for progression, particularly as demand for more personalised and advanced care grows. There is a challenge, however, in getting that message across to raise the profile and change perceptions, especially amongst younger people, and to do that in the context of real pressure on wages in the sector.

“The findings of this report offer simple and effective solutions for those operating in manufacturing & engineering, social care and transport & logistics. A sector-based approach provides a logical and tailored point of entry through which to support businesses to improve staff progression and, in turn, address low pay and in-work poverty.”

Informed by this research, a new support offer for businesses and in-work claimants will be announced by the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges (WYCC) today.

The report can be accessed here.