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The Power of Innovation

James Thomas

How a generous grant changed the game for Bridge of Hope

We were delighted last year to be awarded a substantial grant from Innovate UK, to put new technology to good use helping marginalised people back into work.

As 2020 dawned, our website was a pretty niche affair. As Prosper4Jobs, we were dedicated to helping ex-offenders rehabilitate into sustainable employment, supported by dozens of national and regional employers posting vacancies. But the vacancies had to be posted by hand, which was time-consuming for a small team, and difficult to scale for noticeable impact.

And then the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

As the economy stalled and the government set up various schemes to support businesses and furlough staff, the unequal impact of the disease and its economic consequences became ever more apparent. We soon recognised that there were many marginalised groups, alongside ex-offenders, who found it difficult to access secure, meaningful employment. We knew we needed to scale up our proposition to help all sorts of people whose identities or histories presented barriers to employment, but the costs of the technology required were a challenge.

That’s where Innovate UK stepped in. They’re part of UK Research and Innovation, a government-sponsored public body set up to invest in high-tech jobs of the future and high-tech solutions to unemployment. Last summer, they invited us to bid for funds to kickstart our development, after a previous funding application had narrowly failed.

We wanted to help the full range of marginalised groups, whose numbers had been growing during the pandemic and applied with a plan to invest in new staff and new technology to help us achieve that. We called our project ‘Getting Britain back to work post-Covid’ and won the full amount that we had bid for.

The power of a job

The heart of our case for the economy is simple. Having people out of work costs the country money: in benefits, in lost tax revenue, in lost expenditure (from all that unearned income), not to mention the negative impact on families and mental health. Government figures estimate that every person employed is worth around £18,000 to the economy. And Innovate’s generous grant allows us to start to meet that challenge at scale.

With their help, we’ve invested in software, and with the help of technology partners, we have designed an ‘API’ that automatically feeds new, live, jobs from a carefully selected group of inclusive employers straight into our website every day.

We already had a network of well-established employers like Timpson, Boots and Virgin who we’d been working with for years, and to these, we added some of the services companies designated essential by the government during Covid, such as food-chain distributors, suppliers and logistics companies, medical support services and so on. This automated jobs feed, supported by industry-leading software, has freed an expanded team to spend more time on targeted recruitment work, IT development, digital marketing, training and sales, to bring more progressive employers, referral partners and candidates on board.

If a job is rocket fuel for the soul, Innovate’s investment was a turbo boost for the Bridge of Hope. In four months, we’ve grown from having a few hundred jobs on our site to having over 20,000 live jobs with inclusive employers available to search and apply for. That’s attracted an additional 20,000 candidates over the same period and partnerships with dozens of new referral partners and employers.

And we’re only just getting started. We’re planning a site upgrade launch after Easter where the full impact of our funders will be apparent – watch this space!

If you want to take advantage of our diverse pools of talent in your next round of recruitment, you can find more information about how we work with employers here on our website, or get in touch with us for a personal call.


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

Tags: IT Investment
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