SE1's three business improvement districts have teamed up to launch a new service to help their member businesses recruit unemployed Southwark residents.
Speaking at the launch of EmploySE1 at the Hilton London Tower Bridge on Friday morning, Phil Reed, director of HMS Belfast, said that it was a "no brainer" for local organisations to want to employ local residents.
He explained that HMS Belfast was able to stay open every day throughout the severe weather that hit London before Christmas.
"The principal reason that it did stay open is because an awful lot of our front-of-house employees live in this area," he said.
Southwark Council leader Cllr Peter John told guests at the launch event that the borough has a "very good news story to tell" but that too many residents still missed out on the opportunities available.
"We've seen – over the 10 year period to 2008 – a 15 per cent job growth in Southwark compared to 8 per cent Londonwide and a 35 per cent growth in businesses compared to 12 per cent on average in inner London," he said.
"The problem for us as a council, which extends from here in the north right down to Dulwich in the south, is that we've had that growth concentrated in this part of the borough.
"66 per cent of all the new jobs created in the four years to 2007 were in two wards: Cathedrals ward and Riverside ward. This is where we have seen the physical manifestation of the growth and change in our borough.
"We still have some really high levels of economic inactivity and benefit claimants: 33,500 residents claim an out-of-work benefit and we've got 300,000 people living in our borough.
"We have nearly 12,000 people claiming incapacity benefits.
"Amongst those statistics, our black and minority ethnic groups have a disproportionate representation and we, along with the rest of the country, have seen a rise in the number of young people claiming jobseeker's allowance.
"So this initiative couldn't come at a better time; the three BIDs coming together across the north of the borough to offer employment knowhow and opportunities to the residents of Southwark."
One of the speakers at the launch event was Fabian who had found a job at M&S Simply Food Bankside thanks to the Southwark Works programme.
The three BIDs spoke to businesses throughout Southwark and found that 37 per cent of businesses are currently recruiting despite the current economic climate and 56 per cent of businesses anticipate recruiting within the next year. Nearly three out of four businesses are already recruiting locally.
The EmploySE1 initiative includes a local employer accord by which SE1 businesses commit to offering employment, apprenticeship and work experience opportunities to local people.
There is also a charter mark for employment agencies wishing to place local unemployed people into jobs which guarantees a standard of service to participating employers.
Job vacancies are also displayed on the www.employ-se1.co.uk website.