A new £3.29million scheme in West Belfast has been launched to help up to 300 unemployed people gain employment.
The West Belfast Works scheme aims to give participants the opportunity to develop skills to enhance their employability prospects and is being funded by the Northern Ireland Executive’s £80million Social Investment Fund (SIF).
The West Belfast Works initiative will provide up to 300 paid work placements during the three year period of the project. Each work placement will run for 51 weeks, based with a range of employers across the city.
Already, over 40 businesses are signed up, including; Fold Housing Association, Solas, Footprints, Colin Glen Trust, Shankill Sure Start, Coiste, Impact NI, D Maxwell Architects, BSs, Farset Hostel, Ex prisoner Interpretative Centre (EPIC) and Lower Shankill Community Association.
SIF is an £80million fund aimed at addressing poverty, deprivation and unemployment across nine dedicated investment zones, of which Belfast West is one. The West Belfast Partnership Board is managing the project on behalf of the Belfast West Steering Group, working with the Upper Springfield Development Trust to deliver it.
Fold Housing Association, a partner in the West Belfast Works Scheme, has successfully secured funding for three placements for 51 weeks for a new developing role within the association, Trainee Housing Support Officers. Director of Housing Eileen Patterson says it is a unique opportunity for participants:
“As part of our Investing in Communities Strategy two of our objectives are to create local employment and to support our tenants in sustaining their tenancies. These new roles will help us achieve both these objectives. We hope that the opportunities the placements provide, and the training and support we will give, will help lead to full time employment for those involved.
This is an exciting opportunity for the participants of the programme to gain a years’ experience across the range of housing and support services we offer and to build on their skills.”
She added: “At Fold we have been very concerned about the loss of the Housing Management Degree from the Ulster University as the graduates from this course were often the pool of applicants we used to recruit new staff. If these roles prove to be successful they could become an effective method of recruiting staff from within the communities we serve and enabling us to ‘grow our own’ housing management professionals.”