City sees jobs bonanza – so why are job centres overflowing?

Castle Quarter/Job centre sign

Recruiters have never been busier - and yet so many people are out of work that a new job centre is opening at the Castle Quarter - Credit: Archant/PA

The city is seeing a jobs boost with bosses begging for new staff – and yet unemployment is rife with a new job centre opening to cope with demand.  

Businesses are doing everything they can to get the staff.  

This includes offering four day working weeks, thicker pay packets and some are even launching training centres.  

Recent figures have showed that vacancies have never been higher with more than a million jobs posted in the past three months. 

So why is Norwich scrambling to open a new job centre in the Castle Quarter to cater to increasing demands for services?   

The new centre is due to open in the coming weeks – split across two floors – with the existing centre in Pottergate struggling to cope.  

It is set to launch as the latest part of a national roll out of temporary centres from the Department of Work and Pensions, geared at responding to "increased demand" brought on by the pandemic. 

The reason for the imbalance between vacancies and those unable to find work, experts say, is a residual lack of confidence within the available labour force.  

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Zaradan Rumbelow, director of Job Fairs, which is based in Norwich and hosts job centres across the country, said he was seeing some firms turning to them for support in recruiting for the first time. 

He said: "It feels to me that the shoe is on the other foot now and it is jobseekers that have more of the power now as companies are finding harder to recruit. 

"We've had companies from further afield coming to Norwich to recruit and sectors like care and manufacturing are struggling from a lack of European workers they may otherwise have relied on.” 

Mr Rumbelow added that the pool of potential staff remains limited because of a lack of confidence.  

He said: "I also think due to Covid there is a lot of uncertainty around employers, so people are maybe less willing to take the risk to try something new, even if they're unhappy in their job. 

"I think employers are doing as much as they can to raise awareness but at the same time, the attendance of our last fair was down about 50pc." 

Rebecca Headden. Picture: Blanc Photography 2013

Rebecca Headden. Picture: Blanc Photography 2013 - Credit: Blanc Photography 2013

Rebecca Headden, of city-based commercial recruitment agency RThirteen, said she was seeing employers offering "extra perks" in an attempt to get people through the doors. 

And she added that the agency had been the busiest it had ever been recently - the polar opposite to the earlier phases of the pandemic which may have damaged jobseeker confidence. 

She said: "In March last year there were just no jobs anywhere - people were on furlough or being made redundant. Now there are a huge number of jobs but I think people are feeling less prepared to put themselves out there. 

"When you spend time applying and applying then of course it will damage confidence, but now employers are far more prepared to accept transferrable skills and take chances on people. 

"We've also seen employers offering much-improved salaries, one of our clients has set up its own training academy and they are generally being far more open." 

And the news that extra support will be on offer at the centre across the six units in the Castle Quarter's level one and two has been welcomed.  

Chloe Smith

Chloe Smith - Credit: Neil Didsbury

Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP, said: "This is a good way of helping more people get into work and get the support they need. 

"The Norwich for Jobs project will work with the new site to keep bringing young people and local businesses together." 

But Karen Davis, Norwich City Council's cabinet member for social inclusion, said: "It's not easy to find work in an economic crisis. The Tories know this. 

Norwich City Council Labour cabinet member Karen Davis.

Norwich City Council Labour cabinet member Karen Davis. - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

"They also know that with the end of the furlough scheme, unemployment will rise, further. Opening additional jobcentres across the country will not magic up additional jobs. 

"Rising unemployment means less money spent in the local economy, meaning fewer jobs. It's not rocket science and opening new job centres will not solve this crisis." 

What is seeking work like at the moment?

For a 48-year-old man living in Norwich's Golden Triangle, five years of employment suddenly ended in redundancy midway through the pandemic.

The IT worker, who did not wish to be named, had been working from home but lost his job in November last year.

Since then he has applied for dozens of jobs, both in his area of expertise and out of it, keeping an open mind to new challenges.

But he has found continually that he is reaching second interviews then falling just short.

He said: "I'm having to find myself searching further afield - I want to stay in Norwich so ordinarily I would only apply for jobs here but I've been for interviews in Ipswich and Lowestoft too.

"I think opening new jobcentres says to me the government is expecting more and more people to be looking for work, particularly once the furlough scheme ends."

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