Historically, Slough employment opportunities were predominantly for manual and semi-skilled work, but in recent decades the manufacturing sector has shrunk and the high tech, service and distribution sectors have increased. Many settled Slough families originally moved to the borough for manual and semi-skilled work. Their children and grandchildren now need very different skills in order to secure local employment.
The presence of the Trading Estate both adds to the presence of Slough as a major economic hub, whilst also providing a home to 20,000 of the towns 86,000 jobs. More than 400 businesses, including international names such as O2 and Ferrari/Maserati, are also based in Slough. Cumulatively these factors contribute in providing the borough with a solid economic base.
A proportion of Slough’s population can be characterised as transient and mobile, and the borough has attracted people with a lower level of skills. The recent and current economic climate has seen a decline in the availability of such work, thus causing an increase in unemployment levels. It is important to note however, that increases in unemployment have happened at both regional and national levels.
It is well recognised that people in work tend to enjoy happier and healthier lives than people who are out of work. The report Is Work Good For Your Health and Wellbeing? shows evidence to support the fact that not only does employment provide adequate economic resources to live a healthy life, but it also meets important psychosocial needs providing people with an identity, social roles and social status.
The impact of the recession on Slough has been mixed. The Slough Trading Estate provides a strong focus for employment, but at the same time the town centre, as with all of the town centres in East Berkshire, has seen a marked contraction in employment. Contrary to the regional and national context, the supply of part time jobs is also currently low in Slough.
In Slough, a relatively high number of residents have no qualifications and a low number have degree level or higher qualifications compared to the South East as a whole. This affects the types of jobs that Slough residents do. The jobs that exist in the Borough require a significantly high level of skill which residents do not have. This often means they are not able to access jobs locally and have to go out of the town for lower skilled jobs whilst other people come into the town for the higher skilled jobs. This “skills gap” is reflected in resident vs. workplace earnings figures, with average resident earnings 8% lower than workplace earnings.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics Labour Market Profile show that in March 2015, of Slough’s working age population:
In August 2015, 1,285 people were receiving Job Seekers Allowance in the Borough. This figure has decreased significantly in recent years.
Figures for August 2015 show that Slough has 1.4% of its resident working age population claiming Job Seekers Allowance. This compares with national figures of 1.7% and 1% for the South East. Over a quarter (27.3%) of the Borough’s economically inactive working-age population state they want a job, which is higher than both the national and regional averages. The proportion of unemployed 18-24 year olds who have been unemployed for more than 6 months is 19.5%.
The latest March 2015 data relating to the economically inactive population in Slough, who want a job, although down over recent years remain high at 6,200. This links to research commissioned by Slough Borough Council into the barriers faced by economically inactive people who aspire to enter the labour market. These factors include: expensive childcare, inflexible job opportunities and low skills of the resident population.
Youth unemployment has fallen significantly in recent years with 205 18 to 24 recorded as claiming Job Seekers Allowance in August 2015, a 79% decrease on the October 2009 peak.
The 2014 Annual Population Survey shows that 9.9% of Slough working age residents hold no qualifications, 11% hold Level 1 qualifications only and lower than average possess higher level qualifications. 10.9% of residents hold ‘Other Qualifications’, which reflects the high level of new non-UK immigrants. These figures raise significant challenges in terms of employment chances and quality of life for Slough residents. However, this is one area where the work of Slough Borough Council, along with its partners, has made good improvements.
The Annual Population Survey time series shows that Slough has seen an increase in residents with level 4 and above qualifications, which indicates that the population is becoming more educated. The data shows that 8% more Slough residents of working age are qualified to NVQ Level 4 (degree level) than in 2010 and over 12% more than in 2005 – a greater rate of improvement than for both the South East and Great Britain.
The council’s ambition is to make Slough the location of choice for business, for those already based here and those who may choose Slough in the future; for Slough businesses to thrive and grow, creating sustainable job opportunities for our residents and growth opportunities for our businesses; and for our residents to have the skills that they and businesses need to succeed in the future. The Council has developed a Strategic Plan for Growth setting out its proposed interventions and commitments to achieve this vision in collaboration with local stakeholders and partners.
The Slough Business Focus Study is an economic study seeking to provide an up to date picture of the nature of the business community in Slough and the growth potential of the business base. The Study summarises the headline characteristics of the Slough economy, the sectoral composition and the performance and opportunities that exist within the key sectors.
The council and its partners are seeking to increase employment opportunities and improve skills to secure a reduction in overall unemployment. Current activity is being delivered through Aspire for You, which includes community based jobs clubs, careers information, advice and guidance, CV and interview preparation support. The Business Community Start Up project supports individuals that wish to develop their business idea and set up in business.
The council is seeking to engage with young unemployed residents to increase their employment opportunities and reduce long term unemployment and has launched Elevate Me as the place for 16-24 year olds in Slough to get help, advice and support on employment, work experience, volunteering and mentoring.
In relation to employment at Heathrow Airport, Slough Borough Council is part of the Academy Model around retail, construction and aviation. This programme prepares interested individuals who are then referred to the relevant Academy. The academy prepares the individual further and guarantees a job interview in competition with other candidates.
Slough unemployment levels have been falling over recent years. Continuing support is needed for communities to enable them to move back into employment and for those who are currently out of the labour market and express a desire to re-enter the job market.
There is an ongoing need to raise the qualification and skill level of residents in order to prepare them for the job opportunities that are being created in the Borough.
A range of services across the town that supports communities with job search skills, application form filling, careers advice and guidance and links to actual live vacancies and training opportunities are continuing to be delivered and enhanced.
Priorities for Slough include:
It is nationally recognised that poverty is one of the main contributing factors for reduced health outcomes and life chances, and that economic activity is a key determinant in the causes of poverty.
In Slough, more women are likely to be out of the labour market compared to the UK overall. The difference is more notable among women with children and caring responsibilities. This may relate to Slough’s ethnic makeup, as evidence suggests that women from black and minority ethnic groups face greater employment inequalities than their peers. This is particularly so for women of Pakistani heritage (Source: Ethnic inequalities in labour market participation?)
Those people with work-limiting disabilities do better in Slough – in terms of their participation in the labour market – than those with such disabilities in other parts of the country.
Although there is some activity that supports people on Job Seekers Allowance and other unemployment related benefit, there is currently very little provision for the economically inactive who are not working nor claiming any out of work benefit. There is a need to scan current provision and partnerships and ensure that services are accessible to all cohorts outside of the labour market.