Book review: How to Make a Million Jobs

How to Make a Million Jobs: A Charter for Social Enterprise

By Colin Crooks

Published by Tree Shepherd

Colin Crooks’ book attempts to answer the question ‘how do we create real jobs for the millions who have been unemployed (or under-employed) for a long time in areas that are conditioned to high levels of unemployment?’

Crooks uses his analysis to turn on its head the idea that people can’t get jobs because they don’t have the skills, to suggest instead that equipping people with what he calls social employability skills – the habit of getting to work on time, every day and following instructions, being engaged in the work, willing to learn and understanding that there can be progression in a job and that doing seemingly menial tasks can lead on to job promotion – will enable them to get a job, and with on the job training, investment and support, what he calls ‘patient employment’ they will progress.

His belief is that employment is the best way to address issues of poverty and to tackle the personal and social barriers individual’s have.  He also concludes that improving schools and education is not enough to tackle the really entrenched problems of the chronically-unemployed, neither are supply side initiatives that have tended to help those nearest the jobs market and ‘park’ the hardest to help.

His formula is the ‘intense long term planting of social enterprises in defined areas of worklessness, which will create real employment and improve social cohesion’ by focussing on impact rather than profit. This focus will create social capital and in turn create a ‘tipping point’ that will lever in mainstream investment.

The clustering of social enterprises in these areas should be supported by the creation of Social Enterprise Zones. Rather than creating supply chains such as those in the Work Programme, which add costs, Crooks suggests that each individual be allocated a tariff based on their distance from being employable. Social entrepreneurs who take them on and invest time and training on the job should be paid this tariff which can be funded through a per head levy of £1,000 on firms making individuals redundant. A tax rebate of 90% on this would be used to create a fund of £290m for job creation that could be match funded by the EU.  The scheme could be enhanced by local authorities purchasing locally from these social enterprises that are employing local people, and further supported by the creation of local supply chains amongst local people.  All of which he terms positive capitalism.

The book takes the idea of ‘climax ecology’ – building a thriving ecosystem from the bottom up – and applies it to the issues of entrenched and long standing worklessness. Crooks concepts of patient employment and the building of social employability skills are commendable, as is his critique of the Work Programme’s large-scale supply chain model.  His proposal for a redundancy levy is highly unlikely to ever be implemented, however, and this is the weakest part of the book. Nevertheless Crooks makes an invaluable contribution in applying experience and taking a small is beautiful approach to the issues.

Review is by Liz Zacharias, head of new initiatives and fundraising at SHP, a charity working with the homeless and those at risk of homelessness in London which focuses on support to help people back into work or education. Find us on Twitter @SHPcharity.


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