Severn Trent brings businesses together to help the young and unemployed in City

Tuesday 10th October 2023

Severn Trent has issued a rallying call to other businesses to help create life opportunities for the young and unemployed in Birmingham – to tackle the root causes of poverty.

The company’s CEO Liv Garfield spoke passionately about how companies can work together to help those struggling in communities at an event held at the STEAMHouse at Birmingham University.

The meeting took place just weeks after Severn Trent held a Big Boost for Brum event at Millennium Point, which attracted over 300 jobseekers and recruiters including the NHS, the DWP, Kier and Cadent Gas– supporting the company’s ambitions to help 100,000 living in the Midlands into work and avoiding falling into water poverty.

Liv outlined the success of the ground-breaking event and said the success of the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games also showed how big businesses can work together to create opportunities and develop skills in the city.

She said: “The real legacy of the Commonwealth Games are the people – and that’s why we’re doing this. But more hands and minds are better. We’re stronger together and this is a game-changer for Birmingham. We’ve engaged with a thousand young people, ran our first jobs fair welcoming over 300 local jobseekers and partnered with schools and we want to go bigger, but can’t do it alone.”

According to Severn Trent, around 300,000 people are reportedly living in water poverty in the Midlands. A recent independent report from ReGenerate, called The Good Jobs project, revealed Birmingham’s employment rate was at 66% which is lower than national average at 75.4%, yet vacancies still remain stubbornly high. The number of jobs advertised dropped to just below a million in September for the first time in over two years  

The Good Jobs Project highlighted the opportunity that businesses have to fill vacant roles and support society by working with marginalised and often forgotten groups, such as the long-term unemployed, first-time job seekers, prison leavers, or those who are neurodivergent or disabled. It encourages businesses to rethink how they typically recruit, so that they can attribute business success to the intentional targeting of those who are often overlooked and allow everyone the same opportunity.

Severn Trent has previously pledged to support 100,000 people into work and out of water poverty by helping to tackle some of the underlying causes of poverty. The company has recently taken on nearly 100 new apprentices and is also boosting work experience placements to 500 per year, aimed largely at children from disadvantaged communities.  Research shows that young people who had higher employer engagement, like undertaking work experience, are 86%* less likely to end up not in education, employment or training (NEET).

Now, Severn Trent is encouraging other businesses to think alike to enable people from marginalised groups to enter the workplace, sometimes for the first time – or to work together on offering more placements, skills and opportunities to help even more people with their futures.

Liv added: “We launched our Societal Programme around a year ago in East Birmingham and have made some great progress already – we’ve partnered with eight schools in East Birmingham delivering skills sessions to over a thousand pupils, held 11 pop-up events at local community centres with free employability training with more in the diary and hosted our Big Boost for Brum jobs fair for the first time.

“This is a really exciting next step, which is exactly what this event is aimed at doing – putting the wheels in motion to help our communities and give them the tools to reach their potential. We’re going to leave no stone unturned and help make sure that for anyone who’s in our patch and struggling - we’re helping.”

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street was in attendance at the STEAMHouse event and fully supported the idea of businesses coming together to help our community. He said: “Business can be a force of good as businesses can fulfil and step into roles other sectors can’t. We’re in a unique position.

“More businesses working together can help bridge that gap between education and employment and create a real tangible difference in the city.

“It is exciting that Severn Trent is stepping forward and we all have the chance for change.”

Harry Brown, Director at ReGenerate behind the Good Jobs project added: “The West Midlands is known for its innovation and a region of great success. We have a moment here to be leading with our approach when it comes to employment, helping to bridge the gap between employers, unfilled vacancies and people from marginalised communities who want to work.”

The Good Jobs Project also states that nearly one in five (17%) economically inactive people said they want a job, meaning there could be a sizable potential workforce that is not being tapped. At the same time a third of organisations recruiting struggled to fill their roles. Coming together, and adjusting the current ways they recruit, could be the answer.