The Calico Group – Skills and employability programme

The Freshfields Work Inclusion Award, Finalist 2015, Reaccredited 2016.

The Calico Group, a social business operating housing and support services across the North West of England, has developed a skills and employability programme tailored to people who are particularly vulnerable to unemployment.

Social impacts

  • 833 people benefited from the programme, and 51% accessed employment. This benefited the local economy through increasing the number of people in work and the amount of money available within the local economy.
  • Participants improved their life chances and self-esteem, enabling them to contribute more to their communities.
  • For every £1 invested in the programme, a return of £4.47 was achieved in relation to health and wellbeing.

Business impacts

  • The Group’s programmes were run as businesses, making positive contributions to the business plan, covering costs, and generating a £216,689 contribution to overhead and profits.
  • Staff developed their management and leadership skills and participated in coaching programmes. Staff satisfaction was demonstrated by Best Companies accreditation.
  • Recruitment cost savings of £49,000 per annum were made.
  • The programme significantly improved the Group’s business reputation, and opened up new market opportunities.

Calico Group logoCalico’s Skills and Employability programme helps disadvantaged people to find work, improving the confidence and life chances of their communities by providing opportunities to access employment.

Tackling key social issues through skills development

The programme was set up to tackle social isolation, raise low aspirations, reduce inequality and support positive mental health.

Through their research, the Calico Group identified particular groups where they could make the most impact: NEETS (young people not in education, employment or training), long term unemployed people and ex-offenders or people at risk of offending. The aim of the programme was to help these people build their self-esteem and develop skills to prepare them for long-term careers.

Moving beyond the traditional housing role of advice, the Calico Group has supported over 3,000 people, matching them to real jobs in a variety of sectors. Activities are designed to help people into work by developing skills in sectors where there is a shortage.

This includes employability support; information, advice, and guidance; traineeships, work experience, and volunteering; apprenticeships; jobs; coaching and mentoring.

Creating ambition

The programme is managed by a well-resourced delivery team, including 20 workplace coaches trained to ILM Level 3. Calico also provides around 640 hours a year in staff time to support the programme.

Over the course of a year, the Group works with approximately 1,000 people. Every individual has their own personal needs, so the help could range from pre-employment support and work experience to volunteering, jobs, and employment coaching.

Calico takes a person-centred approach that focuses on the individual, working with them to develop their self-esteem and work aspirations. Key to the programme is encouraging people to think bigger: this might be about the type of job they can get, or how they can progress their career.

Coaches work with each individual to match them to work placements and job opportunities that are right for them.

This person-centred approach also helps to identify each individual’s barriers to employment. Where these are skill-based, Calico work with college partners to provide the training and qualifications that people need.

Feedback from graduates from the programme is very positive and many become role models within the community, demonstrating the value of work and learning. This generates further referrals to the programme, increasing the level of impact – a virtuous circle that reinforces community confidence and aspiration.

What Calico Group's CEO said:

“The Calico Group was founded as a community association, and we will always be driven by our desire to deliver social profit rather than simply financial profit. For the communities in which we work, we have now seen more than 3,000 people receive support, advice, training and apprenticeship opportunities, each building new careers, each improving the lives of local people, each contributing to the prosperity and regeneration of our region. Our passion to support and develop opportunities for adults extends far beyond our own business. We are proud to ensure that our partners, suppliers and contractors contribute to this goal.” - Anthony Duerden, CEO, Calico Group.


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