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Bridge of Hope named Rapid Recovery semi-finalist

James Thomas

Prosper 4's growing careers portal receives a major boost

We are thrilled that BRIDGEOFHOPE.CAREERS has been chosen by Nesta as a Rapid Recovery Challenge semi-finalist from a pool of 148 entries.

As the UK’s innovation agency for social good, Nesta’s latest £2.8m Challenge fund is designed to invest in new tools and services that improve people’s access to employment and money across the UK, especially those most affected by the pandemic-fuelled economic shut-down. The project is supported by JP Morgan Chase, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Money and Pensions Service, and aims to support a million people over the next two years.

In particular, their focus is on three cohorts of people: 16-to-24 year-olds, people earning less than £18,000 a year, and people in insecure roles like zero-hours or part-time contracts. And while we’ve only recently started to make young adults a target group, thanks to our partnership with Resume Foundation in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, we estimate that well over half of all our existing Bridge of Hope candidates fall into the second and/or third categories.

Each of the 14 semi-finalists has been awarded £125,000 to rapidly scale up their solution to Nesta’s ‘Job Recovery’ or ‘Financial Recovery’ challenges. In our case, our task is to scale up our new Bridge of Hope portal to reach many times the number of marginalised people it does now, by working with many more high-quality referral partners and inclusive employers, and investing in further improvements to our technology. We’ll also look for ways to work with the other semi-finalists – we might be competing for the next round of funding, but we’re all invested in the same outcomes: a more secure and equitable jobs market.

Why a Rapid Recovery Challenge?

COVID-19 has been a massive economic shock to the system. Early on, as we clapped for the NHS and praised our teachers and waste collectors for soldiering on, we all recognised our economy’s ‘key workers’ as never before. But we also discovered just how fragile many people’s jobs and economic security were, as millions missed the thresholds for economic assistance, and unemployment among the youngest members of our workforce rocketed.

Applications for Universal Credit nearly doubled in six months, with six million people now on benefits to supplement or replace their income. Unemployment has more than doubled over the same period, and the end of furlough seems likely to make that worse.

Nesta’s challenge is to invest in innovative projects that will help the most financially vulnerable get back to work fast and address some of the longstanding, underlying challenges for the lowest-paid and most precariously employed members of our society.

You can read more about the rationale behind the challenge on Nesta's website.

How we’ll make a difference

Our work on the UK’s Europe’s biggest jobs board for ex-offenders has proved to us that a growing number of employers are committed to being more inclusive. They are looking outside their existing recruitment models to attract people with diverse life experiences who more fully reflect their customers. We’ve already attracted funding from Innovate UK to scale up our site, and Nesta’s funding will allow us to take on more staff to scale up recruitment to match: to bring on more employers and offer them a more bespoke service, to bring on more referral partners who want to help their service-users find work, and to attract more candidates looking for inclusive employers.

With the support of Nesta and their partners, we’ve committed to reaching at least 10,000 deserving job seekers from their target groups, with at least 10,000 jobs for them to choose from, by the spring. We think we can do much better than that – in fact, by next September we aim to have helped around 300 of the people Nesta want to target find long-term, desirable employment, and a further 500 enter work-related training through our partnerships with other bodies.

With Nesta’s help, and by collaborating with partners in this field, we can help many hundreds of people who’ve struggled historically with the jobs market to find long-term, meaningful employment.

If you think you can help us deliver more jobs and training opportunities to the UK's marginalised pools of talent, please contact us and tell us how you think you can help - we'll be straight back in touch.


James Thomas is Head of Employment Services for Prosper4 Group and BRIDGEOFHOPE.CAREERS

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