Jobskilla: empowering the unemployed to take back control

By Anna Schaverien 4 September 2017

Because every job seeker deserves a helping hand.

Finding a job can be a job in itself.

To get the unemployment numbers down, the government plugs £3.2 billion a year into skills training.

But if you’re out of work, tracking down the free training is harder than finding a needle in a haystack.

The job centre’s the obvious place to be told about it, but a 10-minute appointment every fortnight just isn’t enough time.

What the unemployed need is a way to find out what help is out there, book themselves onto training courses, and apply for jobs in their own time.

And now there’s a website that will do just that.

Spotting the gap in the market

Jobskilla was thought up by Chris Hughes and his wife Lisa.

With decades of experience between them in the welfare-to-work industry, they knew how disjointed communication is between the unemployed, advisors, training providers, and employers.

On a drive to Blackpool in 2015, the pair came up with the idea of a site where you could find all the information in one place.

“We just saw that there was something missing. There are training courses fully funded by the government but people just don’t know how to access them,” Chris said.

After setting up the site they had in mind, Jobskilla officially launched in January this year with Chris as chief executive.

“So you can log on, find support services, book training courses – basically anything to help people get back into employment,” he added.

It’s a vast improvement on the archaic systems of the job centre, and makes the information available 24/7 to the people who need it most.

Have you got the skills?

The lazy stereotype of the long-term unemployed is a stigma that’s hard to shake off.

But Chris and his 12-strong team are doing everything they can to show it’s not about the unemployed being apathetic.

It’s about giving them the information they need, and the training to get the jobs they want.

“The problem is the job centre asks what jobs they’ve applied for and how many applications they’ve made,” he said.

“But there’s a lot bigger journey to go on if you want to get into work nowadays. You need skills, training qualifications – little bits of paper saying you can do this job.”

So on Jobskilla you can find training on interview techniques, effective job searching, and you can sign up to qualifications in everything from early years learning to security services.

And it works.

Moaz, a long-term unemployed Oldham resident came across the Jobskilla team simply because they had the word ‘job’ in the name and thought they could help him.

After two training courses, he now works full-time in a warehouse and does construction jobs at the weekend.

“He has more money than I do now,” Chris joked.

Next up, world domination

Chris and the Jobskilla team are based in Telefonica’s Wayra Open Future_North tech hub, and are branching out across the north west.

The number of unemployed in Greater Manchester could fill Old Trafford almost four times over (that’s 300,000 people for the non-football fans among us). So Jobskilla can make a huge impact locally, but Chris is keen to keep expanding the business.

The plan is to roll it out across the country, and even aim for other countries with unemployment issues, such as Spain.

Jobskilla may even evolve into upskilling those already in employment, so low-paid workers could move up a level, and free up more entry level jobs.

As Chris said: “I’m passionate about working in the industry and could have carried on because I was helping a lot of people.”

“But for me, Jobskilla is a way that I could potentially help millions of people.”