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Employment

The UK is facing a huge skills gap — and Big Issue Group plans to do something about it

Big Issue Group is taking steps to solve the skills gap and support even more people living in poverty to find employment

There are 1.3 million job vacancies waiting to be filled in the UK. So why are more than one million people still unemployed?

New research from the Big Issue has found that 79 per cent of people believe there is a skills gap in the UK, a mismatch between the jobs available and the skills of the population.

It comes amid a cost of living crisis, with millions of families battling to save the pennies for their food shopping and rent. More than one in five people in the UK are living in poverty – that’s 14.5 million people.

The survey of nearly 2,000 people, carried out by YouGov for Big Issue Group in early June, also found that most people believed skills training is the best way to support marginalised people, and 63 per cent of said life will be harder for children than their parents’ generation.

The Big Issue is taking those steps to help even more people combat poverty as part of its new strategy. The poll was conducted as part of the launch of the Big Issue Group’s five-year mission, which will focus on “changing lives through enterprise” across all the different parts of the group, from the magazine to social investment arm Big Issue Invest and registered charity Big Issue Foundation. 

The Big Issue has more than 30 years of experience in helping marginalised individuals back on their feet. It offers people between homes or at risk of homelessness the opportunity to earn a legitimate income and get themselves off the streets.

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Jon Gregg, a Big Issue magazine vendor, said: “Selling the magazine helps give you your self-esteem, your confidence and your life back. The tabard is a uniform, when you put it on it really makes you feel like you can take on the whole world.”

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Now, Big Issue Group is pledging to support even more people living in poverty to find employment. It will provide funding to other social enterprises who, in turn, will train people who face barriers in the workplace and help them build skills which will empower them to find employment.

The aim is that, by 2027, more than 11 million will be engaging with Big Issue products and be positively impacted by Big Issue services every year.

The first new initiative, Big Issue Recruit, is set to start in Autumn. It will support marginalised people to find sustainable employment through skills, training and development. They will continue to be supported even after they have found employment. 

Lord John Bird, founder of Big Issue, said: “This is an important and exciting next step for Big Issue Group. When I set up the magazine, my aim was to slit the throat of poverty, but this can only be done if we are focusing on innovation, investment and prevention, rather than always having to deal in emergencies. This new strategy and focus will not only help us support even more people, but it will also enable us to change lives.”

One of the social enterprises which has benefited from Big Issue Invest is Café Van Gogh in Brixton. The business offers on-the-job training and employment opportunities to people with additional challenges in life, such as a learning disability or a mental health problem, and provides them with the support and confidence to thrive.

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Steve Clarke, of Café Van Gogh, said: “As a social enterprise it was incredibly hard to secure investment, but Big Issue Invest gave me the funding which enabled me to make my dream a reality. We put ethical decisions and community at the heart of what we do, not profit.”

The Big Issue Group will be supported by new ambassadors Jack Parsons, CEO of The Youth Group and the UK’s chief youth officer, and Sherrie Silver, a creative entrepreneur, globally renowned choreographer and campaigner. 

Parsons said: “We have to do more to help young people through such tough times and support them to feel like they can ‘win’ at work, in their communities and in society. When I was asked to become an ambassador of Big Issue Group and the mission they are embarking on to help more into work, I knew I had to get involved and support. It’s going to be an amazing period of impact and everyone can play their part to support the new vision over the next five years.”

Paul Cheal, Big Issue Group CEO, added: “Our new Big Issue Group five-year strategy brings all our work together – from vendor support to parliamentary campaigns, to social investment and our campaigning journalism. This is an exciting next step for Big Issue Group, which will enable us to support even more people than ever before.”

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Bigger Issues need bigger solutions

Big Issue Group is creating new solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunities for the 14.5 million people living in poverty to earn, learn and thrive. Big Issue Group brings together our media and investment initiatives as well as a diverse and pioneering range of new solutions, all of which aim to dismantle poverty by creating opportunity. Learn how you can change lives today.

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