Community Lens Webinar - Spotlight on Employability and Skills

The Literacy Hubs

Image courtesy of The Literacy Hubs

Webinar hosted by HIWCF offers solutions to creating paid work for people from disadvantaged communities, young people and adults with learning disabilities.


Three local charities came together to discuss the multiple barriers to employment for people from disadvantaged communities, young people and adults with learning disabilities. Minstead Trust, The Literacy Hubs and Motiv8 described how their innovative interventions are helping to widen access to the employment market.  This engaging webinar followed on from our recent report into our £2 million funding programme delivered with 16 community partners, which enabled 1,200 people in the region – from disadvantaged areas, complex backgrounds, or who had disabilities – to take steps that increased their chances of gaining employment or training. 

People with more complex backgrounds who want to enter paid work are commonly missing out on employment opportunities.  Many need additional support to enable them to be more ready to seek work and to succeed in the workplace once they get there.  Local charities with expertise in helping disadvantaged people to move closer to the employment market have described the success of place based and individualised support in transforming this for many people in their areas.

Chris Hill, Head of Employability at Minstead Trust, facilitates corporate partnerships that support apprenticeship programmes and tailored training opportunities for people with learning disabilities. By including people who have valuable skills to offer, businesses are helping to unlock untapped potential in a significant group of people who want to work and have unique skill sets. He said:


“Only around 5% of people with learning disabilities are in paid work and this figure has been declining in recent years.  They are people like you and me who want to be in paid work and they have valuable skills to contribute to the labour market. Through corporate partnerships we have supported people with learning disabilities to find employment with local businesses and SMEs, right the way through to solicitor’s offices and multinational corporations.  We see exceptional results when businesses make thoughtful  investments in all sectors of society, and we need to think beyond pushing this capable pool of people towards only voluntary or unpaid positions. Research shows that one person’s employment can contribute £18.5k of social value to a local community.  We should not underestimate the potential impacts on whole communities and our wider society when everyone who wants to earn a good wage has the opportunity to do so.”

Chris Hillman, Head of Employability, Minstead Trust

Chris Hillman, Head of Employability at Minstead Trust
Becca Deane, CEO & Founder, The Literacy Hubs

Becca Deane, CEO & Founder at The Literacy Hubs

Becca Dean MBE, Founder and CEO of The Literacy Hubs, supports young people from highly disadvantaged backgrounds to reach their reading age. Their work involves highly engaging  interventions which have been shown to consistently increase reading age and confidence for the primary-aged children they work with in Portsmouth.  Becca highlighted poor literacy rates in Portsmouth and the negative impact on businesses, many of which report to her that they are struggling to recruit locally because of literacy standards. She said:


“Nearly a quarter of the children in Portsmouth live in poverty, making them more than twice as likely to fall below expected levels of reading and writing than their peers from wealthier homes, by age 11.  Studies show that poor literacy skills can cost workers up to £1.5k per year in lost earnings. When you consider this loss of earnings across whole communities of disadvantaged people, it amounts to a much larger collective economic loss.  A correlation has also been found between literacy and life expectancy, showing that a child with low literacy in the Charles Dickens Ward of Portsmouth can experience a life expectancy that is 26.1 years shorter than someone living in North Oxford. Having good literacy skills is much more than just being able to read and write; it forms the basis of all communication and we need this skill across every aspect of life, including in the workplace and society more generally.”

Kirsty Robertson, Interim CEO at Motiv8, described young people eager to enter employment, but needing support in increasing their employability and aspirations. She said:


“In 2023, 84% of the young people referred to Motiv8 had no aspiration for employment or a career. Put simply, they had no hope. Through our youth mentoring schemes and training in employability skills, combined with partnering with businesses who have been willing to invest in the local community, we are seeing opportunities to get closer to good jobs opening up for more and more young people.  The ongoing positive effect of employment on a young person extends well beyond the individual – it creates ripple effects throughout the entire community. It reduces the likelihood of offending, creates new social networks and increases household incomes.  Passionate young people have so much to contribute to business and our society as a whole.” 

Kirsty Robertson, Interim CEO Motiv8

Kirsty Robertson, Interim CEO at Motiv8


 Jacqui Scott, CEO of Hampshire & Isle of Wight Community Foundation, said:



“All three of these local charities offer innovative interventions to improve employment and life opportunities, including mentoring, employability skills training, apprenticeship programmes and helping children improve their literacy at an early stage – when it can have the biggest impact.  And throughout the voluntary sector, this type of vital “shoulder to shoulder” support is being delivered by hugely committed people in community groups in many neighbourhoods.  These unsung heroes are helping transforms people’s lives by giving them new skills, confidence and aspiration to achieve their employment goals.  Our speakers gave real life examples of people they have supported and what was abundantly clear from their stories is that there is also a strong pattern between being employed and an improved sense of wellbeing.  While employment can financially facilitate independent living, it can also boost the social skills needed to live fulfilling, engaged lives which benefits whole communities, socially and economically.



“Research by Pro Bono Economics shows that the average 18-year-old with “very poor” literacy skills will earn around £33,000 less over their lifetime. The impact of low literacy or other barriers to employment like additional learning needs or a complex or disadvantaged background can have a long lasting – even generational – impact.  We would encourage all employers to get involved with the community sector to work together to find ways of enabling more people with more complex needs to move closer to employment. This might be through funding or learning how their employment practices could change enable this inclusivity.”