Meeting the demand for childcare roles

Following the Scottish Government’s announcement to expand free childcare via Councils to 1,140 hours per year, for every pre-school age child, Routes To Work has been collaborating closely with North Lanarkshire Council to maximise the employment opportunities for clients seeking roles in the childcare sector.

In partnership with North Lanarkshire Council & DWP we took part in several roadshow information sessions to spread the word about these amazing opportunities. This resulted in lots of interest and requests for support from North Lanarkshire residents.

By creating a dedicated Childcare Routeway process, we formed a structure of support that captured all the necessary criteria to ensure that our clients were not only fully informed but also genuinely interested in these roles, and best-matched to the opportunities available.

Routes To Work also partnered with CEMVO Scotland as part of the initiative, to ensure that we reinforce the contribution and inclusion of ethnic minorities across our community and provide equality of opportunity for all.

As a result, in 2019/20, our team and clients secured a total of 54 job offers across the region. Among the 54 offers secured, a real diversity of client backgrounds and circumstances was highlighted, with five job offers for those having identified from the BME community, three carer’s, two linked to underemployment, eight clients from the No-One Left Behind initiative, and two clients highlighted with housing issues.

It is a great example of how, working together, both externally with our partners and internally with each other, we can change the lives of those clients most in need and asking for support.

One of our clients, Humaira, referred herself to us in June 2019 for support to find work after hearing about Routes To Work at her local Mosque. She was keen to work with children which had been an ambition from a young age, so we completed an action plan which included enquiring about childcare courses at the local college.

She had previous work experience within a customer service role, so securing a college place would give her the training and learning experience to improve her chances of gaining work within childcare.

Although this was ultimately unsuccessful, we quickly decided to look at other options with Humaira, including a beauty course, and although she was fortunate this time to be offered a place, childcare remained her first choice.

Thanks to the 1140 expansion strategy, there was going to be a need for additional staff across nurseries and family centres. We assisted our client with her My Job Scotland application for Early Years Support Worker and put her forward for an Interview Skills Workshop run by the internal skills team.

After a successful interview in December, she was notified of a job offer early January subject to satisfactory pre-employment checks. Humaira is over the moon and is looking forward to getting started in her chosen career.

“It took me a long time to find a job,” she says. “When I came to Susan for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect… but finally when the Childcare Support Worker job came up Susan helped me apply for this. I’m very happy with the service that has been provided for me from Routes to Work and by Susan.”

“I’m very happy with the service that has been provided for me from Routes To Work and by Susan.”

Maintaining a best-value partnership

Over the years Routes To Work and North Lanarkshire Working have built strong working relationships across a number of functions. One initiative, Prospects, aims to help unemployed people of all ages from North Lanarkshire into work by providing exclusive vacancies with a financial subsidy attached to offer opportunities for residents, that otherwise would have not been competitive in a mainstream process.

One of Routes To Work’s Team Leader’s, David Winning, explains that this is open to all whether you are long term unemployed, just out of school, or simply looking for a new challenge. “Many people in North Lanarkshire have already benefited from Prospects and have found jobs as well as developed skills and techniques for the future,” he explains. “This incentive is to allow clients the best possible start or next step in their life back into work, whilst still receiving ongoing support from both us and their employers.”

External Link Workers Sarah McDonald and Marie Mulvey-Kennah find their roles extremely fulfilling in making a difference to people’s lives. “Working with North Lanarkshire’s Working and the Employability Development Offers (EDO’s) has created opportunities that match the demands of our caseloads offering exclusive opportunities which are not always on the open job market”.

An example of our collaborative approach was with Pulp Tec, Cumbernauld. They advertised vacancies through North Lanarkshire’s Working. After interviewing one of our clients Gemma, they were keen to offer her the position. Unfortunately, the start time was an issue due to public transport, so Gemma could not accept. The EDO & ELW agreed to approach the employer and negotiate a different working pattern for Gemma. Marie says “Pulp Tec were more than happy to accommodate which allowed Gemma to start at a different start time. Through the partnership working between ourselves and the EDO’s the outcome was positive for both the employer and the client who got to start her perfect job.”

Our ELW colleague Sharlene McVey, too, has a very positive view of the “joined-up working” that has led to so much employment success for our clients. She says that it is not just getting the right clients into the right jobs that has justified a strong partnership approach, but also that “employers have so much more confidence in our joined-up service provision.”

Marie finishes by saying “It is important that EDO/ELW continue to develop these partnerships across north Lanarkshire, working together on these types of projects benefits the lives of so many people.

Adele Muir, Employability Development Co-Ordinator at North Lanarkshire Council said “We have built a really strong partnership over the years with Routes to Work, and the offer we have for employers is a perfect example of that. Our team at NLC offers employers a full recruitment service safe in the knowledge that the clients from Routes to Work being matched to jobs are suitable and keen to work. As well as getting the right person for the job, the employer is also able to access funding and aftercare support to support them every step of the way.

“We have built a really strong partnership over the years with Routes To Work, and the offer we have for employers is a perfect example of that.”

“The social value impact is exactly what Community Benefits within the construction of our new build social housing projects has been created for. We are very pleased that Nididi is gaining valuable support, training and the means to support her family, while leaving a lasting legacy”.

Community Benefits Nididi into her ideal job

Routes To Work’s close partnership with North Lanarkshire Council has allowed us to make real gains in our vision to “reduce poverty and improve the health and wellbeing of North Lanarkshire’s communities and businesses, by enabling people to access, sustain and progress within employment”.

And because our work applies a ‘Community Benefit Clause’ when targeting employment support to people typically excluded within the community, we have strengthened links with the Council’s new-build social housing projects.

When we were alerted of a vacancy in November 2019 on one of the Council’s new build sites, we supplied a range of suitable CVs offered to the external contractor for interview.

Five candidates were interviewed and Nididi was offered the job. Originally from Nigeria, Nididi had been working with Routes To Work since 2018, but her main barriers were a lack of experience, English language, and confidence.

Nididi had worked hard with her Case Worker, Keith, to overcome these barriers and over the following months, she worked with the Skills Team to gain certificates in REHIS Food Hygiene and First Aid. When the position of cleaner came up at CCG on the NLC Lismore Site in Wishaw, Nididi jumped at the chance.

Nididi was a perfect fit for this position and is now working 16 hours a week which suits her and her family. The ongoing 6 month in work support offered from Routes To Work, coupled with financial support, eased her first few weeks of employment and showed Nididi that support was not far away.

With this flexible and person-centred approach coupled with the integration and alignment of other services, we were able to support this client to move into the right job at the right time for her.

Nididi says “The job is perfect for me. The flexibility allows me to support my children and still go out to work. I couldn’t have done it without the support of Routes To Work.”

The path to a more certain future

Each year, a number of young people leave school as “Winter Leavers” – those pupils who have reached the age of 16 in Year 4 and who now choose to leave the school setting for a variety of reasons. Many winter leavers, however, are at risk of having no positive destination and are often in danger of being left behind.

Routes To Work has been pivotal in delivering a pilot Winter Pathway programme with North Lanarkshire Council, launched in August 2019, to ensure young school-leavers have a plan for their journey towards the world of work. In partnership with the Council’s education department and using a range of interventions, we supported 47 young people into work either during or following the programme.

This included a range of young people from various schools throughout Cumbernauld, Airdrie, Motherwell, Wishaw, Shotts and surrounding areas. Many were unsure about what the future held for them. Some had been non-attenders at school and had no qualifications, others were simply unsure about what to do next.

Lauren Findlay was one such client who left Bellshill Academy as a Winter Leaver in 2019. She started her new journey by embarking on a course at Cumbernauld College. However, this was not the right journey for her she as she felt it was too similar to school, and decided her preference was to find employment instead. Lauren was low in confidence and as she did not yet have any work experience, she was struggling to know where to start in her search for employment.

Routes To Work proved to be a great match for Lauren, and once appointed a Case Worker, she was set to work on updating her CV, as well as attending a group session to learn about apprenticeships and what employers expect from applicants, whilst building her confidence and realising her own potential.

Lauren’s Case Worker managed to secure her an apprentice hairdressing opportunity with Halo Haven, pending an interview and work trial – which she aced and was offered a job soon after.

A few month’s later and Lauren’s Case Worker can report that she has brimming with confidence and can’t stop smiling following her achievements so far. She said: “I wouldn’t have been able to get a job opportunity like this without help from Routes To Work!”

“After a few weeks of relationship building with the group it was great to see their personalities come out and the change in their attitudes and motivation. I was super proud of everyone who attended, and happy that they let me be part of their journey.”

Jobs Fair success in Motherwell

Routes To Work and North Lanarkshire’s Working scored a huge success with our joint Jobs Fair in Motherwell during 2019/20.

The aim of the event was to support unemployed residents of North Lanarkshire on their journey towards work, with the combined support of our teams, Job Centre Plus, partners and employers.

With up to 300 attending on the day, job seekers had the chance to find out about a range of different opportunities within a variety sectors and industries. Over 30 employers were there to offer a number of live vacancies across a diverse range of sectors including hospitality, Local Authority Roles, Transport & Logistics, Care, Retail, Cleaning and Construction to name but a few.

For many who attended, they declared it to be the best jobs fair they have been part of – with 95% of clients and 100% of attending employers confirming that the event was very useful.

“Routes To Work is committed to working with partners, supporting and adding value to the strategic aspirations of the North Lanarkshire Partnership, and giving our clients a positive direction in life.”

We believe that clients must always be at the centre of the process – we design and deliver all our services with a focus on making positive changes in their lives, respect their wishes, listen to them, and respond positively to make changes in relation to the feedback we receive. This event was a hugely successful example of our mission, particularly to “enable people to access, sustain and progress within employment”.

Routes To Work is committed to working with partners, supporting and adding value to the strategic aspirations of the North Lanarkshire Partnership, and giving our clients a positive direction in life.

With such positive feedback, we were delighted that the event resulted in a number of clients’ lives being transformed.

Reaching out to make a difference in our communities.

Routes To Work places major importance on using community outreach as a way of making our services as accessible as possible for residents. By using a range of outreach premises across North Lanarkshire, we can ensure our offer is shared far and wide.

As a result, we have built up some highly effective partnerships with service providers in towns and villages right across the district, to enhance our client reach and engagement – services such as supported employment, befriending, debt and money advice, local food banks, kids’ playgroups, Jobcentre Plus and many more.

This has had a major impact on our local communities as it has helped spread the word about the services Routes to Work provide.

The Greengairs Memorial Centre on the outskirts of Airdrie is one such location where we established a presence to better serve residents in some of the more rural & isolated villages. With the help of our colleague Lauren, who lives in the area, Routes To Work has established links with bodies such as the Greengairs Parent Partnership and local community councils.

Aligning with the aims of the 2019 Greengairs Community Action plan, our Case Worker, Jade also engaged with local schoolteachers, using leaflets and social media to provide a friendly face that people could talk to. At the end of the first quarter, the impact of this outreach was significant. A number of local residents managed to advance their personal development – whether delivered by a North Lanarkshire Partnership practitioner, employability skills courses, or volunteering – progressing into sustainable employment.

Community Councillor, Ann Coleman, advised she has built up a great relationship with Jade and she is “delighted Routes to Work can offer this outreach service for the residents in her community”.

The Muirfield Centre, Cumbernauld is being used in a similar way by Routes To Work, delivering everything from our mainstream employability service, school leaver projects, groups and job clubs, as well as for training and jobs fairs.

Running each Thursday, the Routes To Work job club at The Muirfield is one example of how clients can be given access to training, job brokering, exclusive vacancies and progression plans; with a face-to-face presence of all those people involved in these processes as well as access to services nearby where required. This has proved to be extremely successful for our team, particularly our External Link Worker who said: “having this joined-up working approach has led to a large number of opportunities for residents from the Cumbernauld area.”

“We work across at least 25 venues in North Lanarkshire bringing our service to the community’s doorstep,” she explains. “We understand the different issues within all these individual communities and address their needs, whether it be an individual or a community group. If we can’t help, we will signpost to other partner agencies so that all clients can receive the help they need.”

“We work across at least 25 venues in North Lanarkshire bringing our service to the community’s doorstep,” she explains. “We understand the different issues within all these individual communities and address their needs, whether it be an individual or a community group.”

Routes To Work is officially a best-value ALEO

Routes To Work is continuing to develop our hugely successful working relationship as a vital Arm’s Length External Organisation (ALEO) of North Lanarkshire Council.

Routes To Work’s service review was undertaken in Phase 3 of North Lanarkshire Council’s Arms Length External Organisation (ALEO) Review Programme and concluded in September 2019. Overall, the findings from the extensive assessment were extremely positive with all 41 areas of review across all aspects of the organisations performance scoring ‘Green’ (meeting or exceeding expectations) leading to an assessment that the company was performing well with a recommendation that it was appropriate for it to continue to operate at arms-length from the Council.

There was recognition that there are a wide range of benefits to be derived for the Council in the company continuing to operate as an ALEO and that these benefits could be maximised in the future by ensuring greater integration & alignment of its activities with the Council and other public sector partners. The next stage therefore is for the company to work with NLC on aligning its current and future service provision to the objectives of The Plan for North Lanarkshire through identification of which elements of the associated Programmes of Work that we can most effectively contribute to.


We now look forward to working even more closely with NLC in the years to come safe in the knowledge that an excellent review outcome has underlined the value we offer in support of the Council’s ambitious socio-economic regeneration plans for the area.

“Overall, the findings from the extensive assessment were extremely positive, with all 41 areas across all aspects of the organisation’s performance, governance, finance and stakeholder feedback, meeting or exceeding expectations.”