British Gas to create 1,000 skilled jobs for young trainees

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If Jeevan Dhillon had listened to his mother, he almost certainly would not be working at British Gas and most likely would still be unemployed.

When the jobless 21-year old college graduate told his family about a free, five-day training course in "sustainability", part-sponsored by the energy giant something which his local Jobcentre told him about they couldn't see the point at first.

"My Jobcentre adviser said you'd get an interview at the end of the five-day course but there was no guarantee of a job," said Mr Dhillon. "My mother and my uncle said it would probably be a waste of time. But I wasn't doing anything else I'd been claiming Jobseeker's Allowance for two months so I thought I'd give it a go."

Four months on from completing the course and he is employed at British Gas as a tenant liaison officer, advising housing residents on how to cut their energy bills.

"The course was a confidence booster and it got me back in the mood for work," he said. "It feels fantastic to be in a job and I feel really good about myself."

He was one of 17 young people hired through the training scheme last year, as part of a pilot between British Gas, environment charity Global Action Plan and consultancy Accenture (NYSE: ACN - news) to match jobseekers with available roles.

Following the success of the pilot, British Gas has announced plans for 1,000 skilled jobs over the next three years, with the vast majority to be recruited through Jobcentre Plus.

In the first instance, Global Action Plan will work with jobcentres to put 1,400 17- to-25-year-olds currently not in education, employment or training through its five-day training course in sustainability, which includes modules on how to be more energy efficient around the home.

Every person who successfully completes the course will get a BTEC qualification and is guaranteed an interview with British Gas. It is anticipated around 400 people will drop out or not be suited to the available jobs, leaving British Gas to recruit 1,000 people into "green" jobs, each paying around £20,000.

Trewin Restorick, chief executive of Global Action Plan, said the job creation partnership was "pioneering" and hoped to introduce similar schemes with other employers, creating around 5,000 green jobs within three years. He is already speaking to companies in the waste sector and hotels industry, keen to cut down on food waste and willing to hire young people with knowledge of sustainability.

As an increasing number of councils count job creation and training for young people as a criteria in awarding contracts, Mr Restorick hopes to ride the trend and work with business on winning contracts. "Offering training or jobs for young people is increasingly giving companies a competitive advantage in the tender process and we can help with that," he said.

Given that all roles are filled by young people, the vast majority of whom are out of work and claiming benefits, Mr Restorick says the scheme with British Gas is a blueprint for other charities to work with employers to curb youth joblessness.

The pilot scheme, which last year trained 27 young people, 17 of whom secured jobs, has already proved more successful than the Government's £5bn flagship back-to-work programme, and shows what can be achieved locally.

A Public Accounts Committee report last week branded the Government's Work Programme "extremely poor", with only 20 of 9,500 former incapacity benefit claimants referred to providers placed in a job that lasted three months or more.

Mr Restorick said: "Our job creation scheme is highly cost effective. Rather than take more money from the public purse, we can work with business to find the skills they need. It's a much more impactful and liberating approach. I hope other charities will follow us."