In July, the BBC News headlines pronounced: “Scotland’s unemployment rate is now the highest among all the UK nations, according to official figures.”
Months later, the statistics revealed just how stark the picture truly has become. “The UK government’s Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said the impact of coronavirus was clearly seen in the latest figures and ‘we can expect that to continue for some time.’” During this global pandemic, unfortunately, this is a common story in many nations throughout the world.
The Unemployability Problem
Our government is coming up with new initiatives and long-term plans, trying to prevent the tsunami of jobless people needing assistance from our welfare system. The “Scottish government launched the £25 million National Transition Training Fund to help up to 10,000 people aged 25 and over, who have lost their jobs or are at risk of redundancy as a result of the virus, to develop the skills required to move into sectors with the greatest potential for future growth and job opportunities.” What is fascinating about this scheme is that it’s aimed at the over 25s. This is such a departure from the way employment schemes usually function, which predominantly have been aimed at the under 24s.
We run into this barrier on a regular basis. Many of our guys are usually far too old for training and employment initiatives—they have perhaps been jobless for decades, while some have never had a job at all. Unqualified, no employment history, and potentially a criminal record are things that do not make for a good resume/C.V. Many potential employers don’t care that they have been saved and have had their lives transformed. Our guys aren’t going to be one of the 10,000 people being retrained for new roles by the Transition Training Fund. Their transition has been spiritual, but that doesn’t make them more employable in the world’s eyes.
When discipling a new believer, how do we balance reality, their new found faith, and biblical truths a such as 1 Timothy 5:8—“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”? Our guys want and need to work but, it’s simply not that easy. If you were an employer, would you take a chance on someone random with no experience and a dodgy past?
For many years, 20schemes has desired to create a back-to-work employability project as part of our on-going discipleship. We want to grow our disciples to be mature Christians, faithful church members, and active in society. Work is an important element in all of that. We want to help people give back instead of simply taking.
Years ago, I was discipling a young woman who had a number of issues both before and, to be honest, also after she became a Christian. She had social workers, drug workers, health visitors and more involved in her life for over a decade. Once, we tried to estimate the cost of all that engagement and came up with about £375,000 per year (I think we low-balled it).
I always wondered how depressed her professional workers must have felt after decades of help with no change whatsoever, then along comes Jesus and He transforms her inside-out. Praise God, she’s now a mature Christian who is a drug-free, an active church member, and also a productive member of her community. She’s in a decent job and has a lovely family. I remember when she texted me to tell me she’d got a promotion at work, I texted back “Proud fake mum moment!”
But, she isn’t the only one—we have helped people go to University, learn to drive, take computer qualification, and more. We’ve partnered with Christian businesspeople who have given young Christians work experience or provided assistance whilst they volunteer for other organisations—gaining skills, experience, and serving in environments alien to them. Those who do go on to employment go as fully equipped missionaries in their new workplace. God is using them.
Many of our new believers have never had a job, have little or no formal education, and have struggled with the regular routine of work. Yet, this does not mean that they are unskilled, lazy, or have no useful gifts. I remember having this conversation with one of our young guys about his God-given gifts. I remember him looking at me telling me he didn’t have any gifts. He was an ex-drug dealer who had been straight for ages. I said to him, “What do you mean no gifts mate? You ran a business and lead men. You clearly are capable of accounting and have some leadership skills. You just used your gifts for evil before, now you need to use them for good.” In the past, just like this young Christian, many have used their gifts for their own selfish gains as they fuelled sinful life choices. We want to retrain and reuse these gifts for God’s Glory.
Recently, I have been working with a few of the 20schemes guys as we develop a new ministry—20schemes Retrain—which Lord willing, will launch in 2021. We have dreamed of some kind of back-to-work discipleship for over a decade, and here we are on the cusp of something. It’s exciting. Retrain will focus on discipling indigenous believers to develop in godly works of service—training, preparing, and equipping them.
When kids are small, we always ask them: “What do you want to be when you grow-up?” Some are feasible, like fireman, policeman, doctor, nurse, or postie’s. Others are a little harder to achieve, like dinosaurs, snowman, or shark. Nonetheless, as parents and family, we will encourage our little ones and do whatever we can to help them fulfil their potential.
It’s no different for the young in the faith, our brothers and sisters, our Christian family. They just want more realistic jobs—dinosaurs are off the list. But things like social worker, chef, painter, handyman, teacher, pastor, women’s worker, business owner. . . those things are achievable. They just need a little help.
God has saved people for a purpose, help them fulfil theirs—invest in 20schemes Retrain as we invest in them.