Recruiting from among this often overlooked group can have surprising benefits

With unemployment an inevitable consequence of the recession and the market flooded with potential candidates it can be easy to forget the long-term unemployed and hire staff whose skills and experience is fresher.

But is this a short-sighted approach? Several retailers have actively tried to assist those long-term unemployed into jobs and the results have been impressive.

Jobcentre Plus runs a number of schemes with retailers to help the long-term unemployed through Local Employment Partnerships (LEPs) working with retailers such as Asda, Tesco, TK Maxx, B&Q and Debenhams.

Sue Veszpremi, head of employer engagement at Jobcentre Plus, says the scheme offers huge advantages to both sides. “LEPs involve Jobcentre Plus and employers working together to unlock the talent available in local communities - both employers and communities are the winners as a result”

Asda resourcing manager Marlon Franklin says the partnership with Jobcentre Plus is a valuable one when recruiting, and Jobcentre Plus is the main point of initial contact for prospective employees for all new Asda stores. “It is a very strong relationship that comes into its own with new stores because of the local knowledge that Jobcentre Plus brings,” says Franklin.

For Asda one of its biggest success stories last year involved the change of location of its store in South Shields, Tyne and Wear. The retailer worked with Jobcentre Plus to recruit 140 staff - including 55 who had been out of work for six months or more, and one for more than 18 months.

To aid those staff who lacked skills or confidence Jobcentre Plus set up customer services courses at local colleges, which were followed by a two-day work trial allowing candidates the chance to try out the roles and demonstrate their skills in a practical way. This was designed to be less intimidating than the normal interview process but also allowed them some renewed experience of work. All of the 37 staff who completed the work trials secured a permanent role at the store.

Franklin says the partnership has proved particularly valuable during the recession. “It has really come into its own in the past 18 months or so. There have been a lot of people in stable jobs for some time so it’s scary to suddenly be back in the jobs market. That’s where the whole work trial scheme really benefits because it gives them the experience and confidence,” says Franklin.

Veszpremi agrees: “We are encouraging more retailers, like Asda, to sign up to this initiative. Together with the retail sector, we can build stronger communities, better businesses and realise the untapped potential of those whose ability and talent has too often been overlooked in the past,” she says.