In line with the commitments in the Pathways to Work Strategy 2021-2025, to increase the capacity and resources of the entire Public Employment Service, including those provided by the Department's contracted service partners, my officials have commenced a series of procurement exercises to secure the appropriate services to engage with the long-term unemployed and other cohorts across the State. This follows a detailed review of public employment services in my Department, which included significant stakeholder engagement.
During this extensive engagement, both at Ministerial and official level, all stakeholders were given the opportunity to share their views and suggestions on the Department's plans to procure quality employment services in an open and competitive manner. At my instruction, Departmental officials have met, again in recent days, with relevant stakeholders including the ILDN, non ILDN service providers and employee representatives.
The focus throughout this procurement exercise is the customer, their needs and how they can be met through customer-centric services delivering the necessary supports in their journey to employment. It is vital that my Department has in place sufficient high quality employment service capacity across the State to meet customer needs as they arise and to be able to respond rapidly to changes in the labour market.
The learnings from the phase 1 procurement, involving the procurement of a Regional Employment Service for four lots over seven counties in the Midlands and North-East, will be incorporated into phase 2 to ensure there are no barriers to the participation of the community and voluntary sector.
The design of the request for tender for the Regional Employment Service, places significant value on an organisations ability to deliver a wide range of services locally through a range of other service providers and has been developed to ensure it is accessible to tenders from the community and voluntary sector, giving due regard to their experience and competencies.