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Do you have a question you want to put to an industry specialist? Each month we're featuring a sector expert to give you the answers to the questions you've always wanted to know.

 

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Ask The Expert

Posted By Susan Allott, Remploy, 16 March 2018

Should you disclose your disability at application stage when applying for a job?

by Susan Allott, Lead Consultant Disability and Inclusion, Remploy

Despite the increasing number of employers signing up to the Disability Confident scheme, and the growing awareness that a diverse team will benefit your business, some people with disabilities and health conditions are still wary of disclosing their disability at application stage. Even where the employer guarantees an interview to applicants with disabilities, provided they meet the minimum requirement for the job, disabled applicants are not always certain that disclosure is the best policy.

Remploy’s team of internal disability Ambassadors were asked to give their views on this issue, and they came back with some varied responses, reflecting how personal a decision disclosure is.

Laura, who is registered blind, described a period of unemployment, prior to the Disability Confident scheme being introduced, in which she became convinced that disclosing her disability at application stage was preventing her from getting an interview.

Laura says, ‘I believe that employers were turning me away because I disclosed my disability. So, I stopped disclosing my disability on forms and explained myself when the time came. I still think this goes on today; our disability stands out more than our skills and qualifications.’

Cornel, who is an amputee, expresses similar doubts. He says, ‘I do disclose of course when an employer mentions a guaranteed interview scheme for disabled people, however I often wonder whether this is a way for employers to sift out those with disabilities, rather than to help them.’

Colin, who has a neurological condition affecting his mobility, says he understands why some people might choose not to disclose: ‘We all know discrimination takes place and the disabled unemployment rate bears testament to that.’ He goes on to say that he might not disclose his disability if he were able to conceal it. ‘My own disability is obvious and therefore I feel I should disclose it. I take the view if the reason they would not employ me was my disability then I would not want to work there.’

Bobby’s disability is also physical. He is a strong believer in disclosing at application stage. He says, ‘I have always disclosed my disability and I am proud too as it is always best to tell the truth and be upfront with employers.’ Furthermore, he advises his Remploy candidates to do the same, saying that it could lead to a greater chance of interview.

Tony makes the point that due to his learning disability, he would not get the adjustments he needs at interview stage if he did not disclose. ‘I would have to disclose my disability,’ he says, ‘as I would need support if I got through to the interview, even if this meant lowering my chances of getting the job.’

Anna feels differently. Of all the Ambassadors, she is the only one in a position to conceal her disability. She has been promoted internally at Remploy by Managers who knew that she suffered with anxiety. Externally, she’s not so sure. ‘I would only disclose if I had the impression that it would not hold back my application,’ she says.

Overall, most Ambassadors felt that in principle, disclosure is the right thing to do, even if it might put some employers off. Eva, who is registered blind, was interviewed for 26 jobs before she took up her post with Remploy. She says, ‘in each interview I learned of new reasons that a blind or disabled person would potentially find the job difficult.’ But Eva thinks those 26 interviews may have had some value. She says, ‘I strongly believe that not disclosing and not having those challenging conversations with employers only continues to hide disability, which does us no good whatsoever.

 

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Ask The Expert

Posted By George Selmer, Founding Director, ThinkWinDo, 26 May 2017

What will a new government bring? 

By George Selmer FIEP

[This article first appeared in FE News 26 May 2017]

There are lies, damned lies and opinion polls. But the odds are stacked against any party other than the Conservatives forming a government come June 9th. What might that mean for the people that we serve in the employment related services sector and for us as providers of those services? 

First of all, whilst there’s only one manifesto likely to be implemented, it’s worth noting that, collectively, all the major manifestos have less to say about active labour market policy than at any time since the 1990s. It’s fair to say that worrying about unemployment appears to going out of fashion. 

Victims of our own success or our own failure? We are losing the argument that what we do is necessary and valuable to create a fair and thriving economy. 

The Labour manifesto contains some interesting, welcome and worthy stuff on welfare policy (overhauling the discredited WCA/PIP system, addressing an unfair and ineffective sanctions regime and addressing some cuts to out of work benefits) and skills (including a ‘National Education Service’, increased funding for adult education and more active management of the Apprenticeship Levy.) Stephen Evans, CEO Learning and Work Institute, gives an excellent assessment of it here

But, I’m baffled by the failure to address the cuts to in work benefits, and the absence of any mention of active labour market policy (i.e. employment programmes) from the party that pioneered them in the 1990s is a matter of extreme concern. 

Playing the odds though, let’s take a closer look at the Conservative manifesto, where we find that: 

They're done with radical welfare reform 

Thank goodness, we might say. However, the damage inflicted on our customers by previous harsh reductions in both out of work and in work benefits will continue to be done. Poverty is not about character, it’s about cash - and taking away money from people who don’t have very much anyway is not going to help change their situation. 

They're hoping to reduce the disability employment gap 

There’s more aspiration, pledging and reliance on the benevolent power of the market to sort things out than there is a clear strategy, programme or funding. The Work and Health Programme should make a small dent on moving more disabled people into the workplace, but it’s going to be tough.  There’s a pledge to offer more advice and support to employers ‘to hire and retain disabled people and disabilities’ but no evidence of how that will be done or how it will be paid for. 

They're up for incentivising employers 

Far more substantial is the offer to support or incentivise employers in recruiting disadvantaged and long-term unemployed people through a one-year holiday on National Insurance Contributions. This is good news, but how well it will be sold to employers is anyone’s best guess (remember the Youth Contract anyone?) It would be a really useful tool to support the delivery of an employment service, but we are going to have a lot less of them.

They’re aware of the EU funding gap 

Crucially, there is a recognition that the structural funding we receive from the European Union makes a critical contribution to tackling economic and social inequality in the UK. There is a commitment to use the structural fund money that comes back to the UK following Brexit to ‘create a United Kingdom Shared Prosperity Fund.’There’s no suggestion of how much this will amount to and we need to press for clarity on this. There will be a consultation with devolved administrations, local authorities, businesses and public bodies on the ‘design of the fund’ and we need to make sure the needs of our customers are at the heart of it. 

There’s a real drive on productivity and skills 

The Apprenticeship Levy will remain the centrepiece of this drive. There’s a ’national retraining scheme' to help people ‘remain in secure work’ by giving all employees the right to request leave for training, with the government meeting the costs of retraining. There’s - once again - no detail on what the scope or funding envelope for this scheme will be. There is the commitment that employers will be able to use Apprenticeship Levy funds to cover wages during training - which can only put more strain on the Apprenticeship Levy and raise the unrealistic expectations further of how much can be done with that cash. Yet another example of robbing Peter to pay Paul?

It’s absolutely critical that we invest in people’s skills for the future, to raise productivity, drive wage growth and support progression (which will, in turn, open up entry level opportunities for new labour market entrants.) But, there is rightly concern that the increasing focus on those in work will mean that those out of work will be left further behind. Nick Linford has highlighted in FE Week that the focus for apprenticeship starts is shifting towards the over 35s and those already in work - pointing out that in the Standards pilot the level of under 19 participation is collapsing. This is not good news for young people, who need a first rung on the ladder. 

We need to do what we can to ensure that this increased drive to invest in the future skills of the workforce is: 1) adequately resourced; and 2) is targeted on those out of work, as well as the existing workforce. 

There’s still no money

Last of all, there will continue to be a lot less money from central government to fund employment related services. The Work and Health Programme and its devolved cousins in London, Greater Manchester and Scotland will go ahead - with a funding envelope around 80% smaller than the previous cycle of employment programmes. Jobcentre Plus will be asked to transform itself and serve more people with a higher degree of success than before - with less resource to do so. 

I’ve written before about the potential, serious impact of the extreme funding reductions being made in contracted and public employment support services. One of the many impacts will simply be - in many places - a lot less support potentially available to those who need it most. 

I’ve also written previously that, in the face of this, we need to innovate - both in terms of our delivery and our income generation. That challenge remains open to the sector and we need to step up and meet it. Because the need for our expertise remains - and will continue to remain - high. 

Yes, unemployment is the lowest it has been in a decade (i.e. since the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008) but there are still almost half a million long-term unemployed, almost 600,000 unemployed young people and higher rates of unemployment amongst key disadvantaged groups, including the disabled and particular ethnic minority communities and in specific geographies (including the North East, the West Midlands and London.) None of that looks good in terms of creating a ‘stronger economy and a fairer society’, which is apparently Theresa May’s mission.  

Yes, employment is at a record high. But, productivity is low and wage growth has downturned in the face of rising inflation. Particularly - but not exclusively - at the lower end of the labour market, people are working in insecure circumstances, often trapped in a vicious low pay, no pay cycle. 

And the economy remains brittle, post-referendum, with sterling down and the great unknown impact of Brexit still to come. It’s hard to find an economist who doesn’t believe that this will be negative. What happens then? Whatever does happen, we need to make sure we are all still around, because an awful lot more people might need our support and expertise. 

 

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Ask The Expert

Posted By Kevin Moore FIEP, CEO, Future Path, 18 May 2017

How can the sector better support mental health recovery?

Supporting jobseekers who are experiencing poor mental health is nothing new to the sector, but we are definitely seeing a shift to a more proactive service, joining up with talking therapies and bringing mental health wellbeing into our conversations more often. But how well equipped are we to support our customers? Kevin Moore, the Chief Executive of Future Path, has spent the last year training over 200 frontline staff and Managers from DWP, Local Authorities and Providers. He has delivered both the full 2-day Mental Health First Aid programme, and the half-day “Lite” version.

“I think we all know that mental ill health is a heavily stigmatised subject area. Every time that I’ve delivered a course, I’ve seen participants looking uncomfortable at the thought of initialising conversations about how someone is feeling, and that’s especially the case when we talk of thoughts of suicide. But when you consider that unemployment is a huge risk factor for mental ill health, it’s an area that we really need to confront head-on.

After all, the statistics suggest that someone is 4-10 times more likely to suffer mental ill health after just three months of unemployment. Add into that the World Health Organisation statistic that one in five suicides worldwide is linked to unemployment and we can see the urgent need to be able to support jobseekers in crisis.

So…what is our sector’s role in all of this?

The first concept that we need to accept is that our service doesn’t exist in isolation to someone’s recovery – it is a central part of it. Mental illness isn’t “cured” – recovery is about building a fulfilling life that is compatible with our mental health, and the right job can be a huge factor in enabling this. But, of course, the wrong job can make the situation a lot worse.

Work & Health Programme bidders are currently assembling their models, which will inevitably include strong links to, and possibly co-location with, IAPT services. But that arrangement will be severely hampered if our staff aren’t confident in having “that” conversation – and this is where Mental Health First Aid is so relevant.

So far, we have trained 193 staff to be fully fledged Mental Health First Aiders – they have spent 2 days with us, learning about different disorders, the risk factors, signs and symptoms – but most importantly, they’ve also learnt how to help someone in crisis. Feedback from the courses has universally shown a significant increase in learners’ mental health knowledge and, critically, their confidence in being able to support someone in need. In our opinion, what we now need to do is get every frontline Adviser through this vital training. The Prime Minister is introducing it in secondary schools, and the Conservative manifesto commits to primary schools and large employers too (finally putting the training on a par with physical first aid), so why wouldn’t we want it in our sector, a sector that deals with people at high risk?

And what about the wellbeing of those frontline Advisers? When you support people in distress on a day-to-day basis, you personally become very high risk of developing depression and/or anxiety. So how are we, as a sector, ensuring the emotional stability and resilience of our staff?

Mental Health First Aid is not the definitive solution – what 2-day intervention could be? But it’s a great starting point. Take, for example, the half-day course that Future Path delivered last week, in partnership with the IEP and ERSA, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Sixteen participants arrived at the venue, representing a really diverse cross-section of our profession. We had frontline Advisers sat with Operational Managers, Senior Managers/Business Owners sat with Psychologists. We only had 4 hours together, and the group clearly included some learners who weren’t new to the subject area. Yet the feedback that we received showed just how effective an established and focussed training session can be, even if it is just for half a day.

In looking at the evaluations, we can see the benefit. Learners were asked “On a scale of 1 - 10 please score your personal confidence of how best to support others with a mental health problem before and after the course”. The group averaged out at 5.9/10 before the course, and 8.2 after. That’s a significant increase just 4 hours after entering the room – and yes, even the Psychologists reported an improvement!

The course feedback was fantastic, including quotes such as:

  • “I learnt much more about different types of mental health conditions and what they each feature, plus how to recognise them”
  • “It drives the importance of being able to recognise the symptoms with our customer base – I’d be keen to roll this out as part of Adviser development to create an awareness”
  • “I wish Healthcare professionals decades ago were trained to this level of knowledge”

You can imagine what feedback we get from the full 2-day version. Several DWP Work Coaches have stated that this should be compulsory training for all staff, and we have had organisations requesting in-house training after an individual Learner has returned to their workplace, speaking about the practical support that they can now give.

But the best example I can give is in Barnet, North London. There, we have trained over 60 frontline staff and Managers to be fully fledged Mental Health First Aiders and the effect is more than just sixty-odd people being able to provide support. It has brought a common ground between different organisations (DWP, the local authority, the housing ALMO and providers). Conversations now happen between these services that focus on a person’s wellbeing, not just that organisation’s services. People can now discuss stress vulnerability, emerging risk factors, deteriorating symptoms and what support they can arrange. And crucially, it has also enabled staff to discuss mental illness with Health professionals at a level that just wouldn’t have happened before. If that leads to just a 5% improvement in a person’s recovery, then the course is wholly justified.

So….what next for our sector? I’d really encourage all Providers to have a thorough look at the Mental Health First Aid course. It has to be delivered by an authorised Instructor, but MHFA England run frequent courses to enable this. What’s crucial for me is that we introduce MHFA by default – whether that’s by using a company like Future Path, or upskilling your own workforce to be able to deliver it internally.”

 

Contact:

Kevin Moore FIEP

kevin.moore@future-path.co.uk

www.future-path.co.uk

 

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Ask The Expert

Posted By Nicola Whiteman, Senior Policy Officer, Papworth Trust, 16 April 2017
Updated: 05 April 2017

What steps does the Government need to take in order to halve the disability employment gap?

 by Nicola Whiteman, Senior Policy Officer, Papworth Trust

 

Here are Papworth Trust’s top ten recommendations…

  1. We recommend an automatic entry route back onto ESA for claimants who have fallen out of work within a year.
  2. We recommend personalised support focusing on what people can do. For some this will be health and condition management, for other this will be employment support.
  3. We recommend a clear communication route between ESA Support Group and Jobcentre Plus/employment support provision with reassurance that benefits won’t be affected.
  4. We believe that separating the Work Capability Assessment into a) financial and b) employment support would help drive positive attitudinal change towards the process.
  5. We recommend a pilot system to test data sharing. Claimants much be given the chance to opt-in/opt-out of any future system.
  6. We recommend intense training for Jobcentre Plus work coaches – covering how conditions affect people in different ways and what local support is on offer.
  7. We recommend JCPs trial co-location with other Government bodies and third sector organisation in their local area.
  8. We recommend DWP/JCP develops an assessment tool that more accurately reflects a person’s barriers to work.
  9. We recommend fundamental reform, and possible re-branding, of the current Disability Confident and Access to Work schemes.
  10. We recommend the Government looks at the role of procurement in closing the disability employment gap. Papworth Trust believes unequivocally that for a disabled person to live as independently as possible, a job is a key driver to making this happen.

Of course, not every disabled person can work, but for those people who can and want to work, the State should do all it can to work with employers to put ladders of opportunity in place so disabled people can fulfil their employment potential.

The Government’s Green Paper was overdue but welcome. It signalled a real intention to address the issues disabled people tell us they face when entering employment. Ahead of our Green Paper response Papworth Trust ran a survey on the likely effects of the proposed reforms to disability employment – the types of employment support people would find useful, attitudes to Jobcentre Plus (JCP) and data sharing, and on the separating of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

The results made for interesting reading. Our survey showed that only 1 in 3 felt that there was currently enough work and health support for people in the Employment and Support Allowance Support (ESA) Support Group. Interestingly, people who were claiming ESA and not currently in touch with JCP told us they didn’t know where to go for help and support regarding their health and work opportunities.

Papworth Trust passionately believes that no-one in the Support Group should be written off. This is a fundamental and the Government must ensure that support is properly personalised to the individual and focussed on what they can do. We recognise this is a shift, not just in policy terms but also in the culture of JCP and DWP as a whole. There has to be a joined-up approach to cultural change and policy reform.

This is even more essential when we consider that for some disabled people the support they will want or need may be health and condition management support, for others they will find light touch employment support beneficial. It is clear that a ‘one size fits all’ approach won’t work.

When we’re supporting people into employment who have been out of work for a long time, the barrier to work stops being solely about a disability or impairment, about whether you can get over the working hours or benefits threshold, or even about what reasonable adjustments your prospective employer can make. Instead the barrier is invisible. It is psychological. It is more often than not, in Papworth Trust’s experience, encapsulated in four letters. Fear.

The fear of working, the fear around lacking confidence, and fear of what happens to my benefits if work doesn’t work out. 

The biggest fear the disabled people we support tell us about is the fear of having spent two years getting onto ESA only to then gamble this away with a job that might not work out.  It is entirely reasonable.

If you’re trying to work out how you can support your family, keep a roof over your head and food on the table, why would you take that risk of losing all of your ESA, particularly if in the back of your mind you’re thinking about the consequences of falling out of employment quickly after coming off the benefit.

At Papworth Trust, we believe there is a simple policy fix that will help alleviate that fear of trying work. We would like to see the Government introduce a fast track route back to ESA or even a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) recognising that a person’s conditions might have improved, if they fall out of work within a year of leaving the benefit. This would give people a certain amount of security that if they take a job, they don’t risk being up in a worse position than they are currently in. It would also help the Government to drive up the number of disabled people in employment.

We need to be mindful that people have a job in the context of what else is happening in their lives. Do they have a home, or indeed do they live in one that is appropriate to their needs? We know that people with an unmet need for accessible housing are 4 times more likely to be unemployed or not seeking work. Do they have access to transport? Alongside a perceived lack of job opportunities, we know disabled people see ‘difficulty with transport’ as one of their biggest barriers to work. We need to make all the pieces of the jigsaw fit together.

No one is pretending that the ambition of supporting more disabled people into work is easy, but there are quick fixes to a complex system that could easily be introduced. We think it would make a big difference.

Contact:

Nicola Whiteman, Senior Policy Officer

Nicola.Whiteman@papworthtrust.org.uk

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Ask The Expert

Posted By Deborah Tillett, Vinco Ltd, 24 March 2017
Updated: 01 March 2017

How will the Work and Health Programme Impact the Frontline?

by Deborah Tillett FIEP

[This article first appeared in FE News]

Since the results of DWP’s Umbrella Agreement have been released, the focus has shifted to the procurement of the Work and Health Programme (WHP), with more details becoming available from DWP about what exactly the Programme will entail for delivery providers. Whilst we don’t know everything and delivery design is still very much “black box” we do know there are some important differences between WHP and the employability programmes that have come before.

Change: There will only be one Prime Provider in each Contract Package Area (CPA) and single CPAs cover significant geographical areas.

Potential Impact: Prime Providers will need to build comprehensive supply chains in order to ensure effective delivery across both urban and rural areas of each CPA. With a focus on localised delivery, we can expect to see more outreach work, co-located services (sharing delivery space with other providers and services) and an increased focus on effective supply chain management. DWP expects the programme to be accessible and this will require increased flexibility from Advisors in terms of delivery location, methodology and frequency of interventions. Large delivery sites that house big teams of Advisors, trainers and employer engagement staff in a central location and to which customers travel to receive support, may well become far less common in favour of flexible, peripatetic staff teams working within local communities.

Change: Whilst Providers will be paid based on results, DWP has pledged to automate the entire claims process; relying on Real Time Information (RTI) from HMRC to track customer progression into work and their earnings whilst in work. Providers will be paid a 30% delivery fee for each participant and the remaining 70% outcome fee when a customer reaches a certain earnings threshold while IN work.

Potential Impact: Provided DWP’s system of using RTI is effective, this should mean that Providers are able to focus resources on delivering quality interventions and In Work Support rather than tracking and claims validation. It is also likely to mean that we will see changes to DWP’s performance management regime, PAT audit processes and management information requirements. For front line advisors, an automated claims process should be a boon, freeing them from over bearing process and allowing them to spend more time and energy on delivering quality interventions.

DWP have yet to release further details on how RTI will be used, monitored and reported and the systems requirements of this new process, but one thing is clear – DWP intend WHP to be a contract that supports people rather than process driven delivery.

Change: A focus on people not process. It certainly seems that DWP’s intent in the design, procurement and ongoing management of WHP is that Providers focus resource on innovating and delivering quality, individualised support that meets the complex needs of the customer group.

Potential Impact: We know that WHP customers will have complex needs. We know that supporting them into work will require highly individualised interventions, likely drawing on the expertise of a number of agencies and support services as well as requiring Advisors to have a diverse and flexible skills set. WHP front line Advisors will need to utilize their ability to communicate in a range of ways, be comfortable using technology to support interventions, be able to build rapport and relationships with a caseload of customers with diverse needs, have the ability to co-ordinate multi-agency support for individual customers and engage effectively with employers to source vacancies and support in work progression. WHP Advisors will be expert people, people who are also able to satisfy the evidence requirements of DWP (action plans, reviews, management information), albeit to a lesser degree than we may have been used to.

WHP heralds a new generation of Front Line delivery staff. DWP is looking for providers who ensure their staff teams are equipped with relevant skills, remain agile and responsive to a complex customer base, are flexible in their ways of working and performance focussed. The IEP is committed to enabling people working on WHP to ensure that they have access to best practice, knowledge, new skills, peer and expert support.

 

deborah@vinco-consulting.co.uk

 

Update

The successful bidders for the first round of submissions for the Umbrella Framework were published in January, details of which can be found here. The second round of bids are now underway for submission by 26th April.

 

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Ask The Expert

Posted By George Selmer FIEP, Founding Director, ThinkWinDo, 12 March 2017

What is the impact of the Budget 2017 on the employability sector?

By George Selmer FIEP, Founding Director, ThinkWinDo

What are my thoughts, I’m asked, on the impact of the budget on the employability sector?

It’s an interesting one. Because, for the first time in a very long time, in the most obvious sense, there is very little that the Budget has to say about the employability sector. The £5m allocated to returners to work is about the only evidence of any spend on active labour market programmes. Given the size of the allocation, it’s hard to see this as anything other than window dressing.

The Employment Related Services Association’s email update on the relevant points in the budget contained a mere six bullet points. Looking at the departmental DEL allocations, it is clear that DWP will be considerably smaller than it is now by 2020 - in line with the numbers outlined in the Comprehensive Spending Review in 2015. Public spending in general continues to be squeezed, with the pips in local government now almost certain to squeak, if not squeaking already.

It is hard to draw any other conclusion than that the current government is one less interested in active labour market policy than at any time since the early 1990s. For all but the most experienced of us, that’s a time beyond our working memory!

The key focus is clearly now on adult skills and Apprenticeships, along with the continued drive for devolution. The subtext of the Budget shows that these are clear signals to which the sector must respond. I started off by writing some reflections on both of these topics, but I’ve deleted them - because I really wanted to say something else.

The Worst of Times?

It was clear that we were heading here from the release of the CSR in November 2015. Now we are here, I’d ask the question - how many of us in the sector are truly prepared for it?

You could say that these are tough times for the sector. You could say that it’s the beginning of the end, if you wanted. You could also say that these things are cyclical and if we just survive the next few years, there’ll be a recession, they’ll have to throw money at it and things will start to get better (at least from the point of view of an employment support provider!) You could say that the next few years, though, are going to be about managing decline, rather than investing for growth.

You could say any and all of these things.

The Best of Times?

Or, you could choose to innovate, diversify, renew your services and increase your impact. It’s entirely up to you.

There’s public money out there. There’s less of it, but still the opportunity to join up programmes and funding streams to deliver greater impact at reduced cost remains. One route to innovation in the next few years will be integration - between employment, skills, apprenticeships, criminal justice, health and social care, etc. Where are you on that road?

You could develop new services, that meet new needs or totally transform the way you meet existing needs. When was the last time you approached central government with an exciting new concept, with a sturdy cost-benefit analysis and a request to pilot it somewhere? Rather than waiting for government - central and local - to approach us, asking us to tender to fix the problems they have identified in the way that they have designed, why don’t we get out there first and offer something new? Outside of the contracted public services market, organisations would never dream of sitting there waiting for their customers to tell them what they wanted. Steve Jobs imagined the iPhone - we couldn’t.

As Apprenticeships moves towards becoming a business to business market, as opposed to a business to government market, why shouldn’t we make those similar moves out of choice in aligned spaces. There is a commercial offering to be created in employment, skills and health and wellbeing - there is a clear return on investment for business. Why don’t we make them an offer? I spoke to a charity a couple of weeks ago that have done exactly that - charging large employers commercial rates for delivering high quality pre-employment training and placement for young people into their front-line customer service positions.

And while we are on the subject of charities - there’s huge opportunity for innovation. Too many charity organisations in the sector are too heavily reliant on government contracted funding - often for upwards of 70, 80 even 90% of their revenue. That same charity I spoke to recently has totally flipped their revenue model on its head. They’ve tapped into a rich stream of fundraising, corporate sponsorship and partnership with blue-chip businesses. Why? Because they offer something that those funders, donors and sponsors see as having a commercial and social value - and they are prepared to invest in it. What’s stopping the rest of you?

The Growth Paradox

Boston Consulting Group says this about growth: ‘over time, it is imperative. Across all industries, it is possible. And experience shows that it is perilous.' And their data shows that it is possible to grow, even in markets that are unstable or fading. It’s difficult to see the core employability market in any other way. But it requires the trailblazers and the innovators to buck the trends. In our sector, growth is not just about revenue, profitability, shareholder growth or career security for industry professionals. Growth means social impact, reducing disadvantage and making our country a slightly better, fairer place. So, on the basis that it is possible, just harder, we’d better get on with it.

 

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Ask The Expert

Posted By YE UK, 10 February 2017
Updated: 03 February 2017

What are the challenges facing today's young people looking for employment?


For the last 12 years youth unemployment has been at some of the highest levels on record, and according to the most recent research from the Princes Trust a third of young people (36 per cent) do not feel in control of their job prospects. However, research produced by High Fliers identifies that graduate employers are committed to their employment programmes, many identifying a growth in recruitment with sectors unable to fulfil the demand for skills.

Tuition fees are rising and the changing world of Apprenticeships means that there is more choice and uncertainty for young people. In 2016 there was a 13% decrease in the number of young people applying for University. There are some fantastic opportunities available, but many young people have not had the support or inspiration to understand how to take advantage of the opportunities available to them. Careers advice and guidance is patchy in schools and in FE and HE settings.

Young people seem more invested in the type of company they work for, focusing on its culture and the opportunities available than salary and brand appeal. Just as many young people are invested in volunteering and social action, being involved in something that does social good is of growing importance to this generation. Those young people who take up work experience placements, volunteer and can balance academia and personal development have a wealth of options.

Providing support to young people today is complex with huge rises in mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. It is important to get to know young people individually and ensure that support is tailored to empower them to take control of their futures.

Some facts about the graduate employment space

High Fliers Research Limited produced a report in 2016 that provided a comprehensive view of the graduate employment space. The research found that;

  • The country’s top employers plan to expand their graduate recruitment by a further 7.5% in 2016, the fourth consecutive year that graduate vacancies have increased.
  • The biggest growth in vacancies is expected at public sector organisations, banking & finance employers, engineering & industrial companies and the Armed Forces which together intend to recruit over 1,300 extra graduates in 2016.
  • Recruiters have confirmed that 32% of this year’s entry-level positions are expected to be filled by graduates who have already worked for their organisations, either through paid internships, industrial placements or vacation work.
  • Almost half the recruiters who took part in the research repeated their warnings from previous years – that graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process and have little or no chance of receiving a job offer for their organisations’ graduate programmes.

The research finds that the graduate landscape is good and that graduates who have balanced academia, work experience and invested in their self-development and networks are in a strong position.

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Ask The Expert

Posted By Gary Pettengell, Founder and CEO, Empowering-Communities, 24 January 2017

How do you design collaborative services at a time of great uncertainty?

by Gary Pettengell, CEO and Founder, Empowering-Communities

 

An ever-increasing demand for public and frontline services coupled with an ever-dwindling budget has created unprecedented challenges for service organisations. Yet despite this, staff all over the country are working harder than ever to design joined-up services which focus entirely on the needs of users.

A backdrop of uncertainty has created a greater need for collaboration. Not only to save time and money, but also to provide services which require the involvement of several organisations.

To support the need for collaborative thinking, the GDS has published a Service Manual which puts the emphasis firmly on needs. “Your service should always be based on user needs and what’s essential to help users to achieve a specific goal.”

GDS flips the traditional idea of a service on its head, by considering an objective from a user’s point of view. “To a user, a service is simple. It’s something that helps them to do something - like learn to drive, buy a house, or become a childminder.”

But designing services which involve potentially hundreds of different parties is complex and convoluted. So what does all this theory actually look like in practice?

Overcoming the silo mentality

Over the last ten years, I’ve met with public, private and third sector staff who faced these exact challenges. Often they were fully aware of what should be happening, but felt restricted by historical processes which related to a silo mentality within their organisation. It’s probably fair to say that across Government, services have primarily been designed with the needs of each department in mind, rather than the needs of each user. Sometimes, the only way to overcome these problems is to design new user-centric services from the ground up.

For example, Melton Mowbray Borough Council’s Me and My Learning Programme (M&ML) helps working age benefit claimants secure sustainable employment and involves over 20 different partners, such as Jobcentre Plus, Learndirect and The Prince's Trust. Over 70% of those referred to M&ML face four or more issues, ranging from drug and alcohol abuse through to homelessness and debt. Only through effective collaboration can the council tackle the most difficult barriers affecting jobseekers in their area.

Dave McKenlay, a M&ML Business Partner at Melton Borough Council, explained the thinking behind the new service.

“By co-ordinating a wide range of organisations under one umbrella we’re helping the agencies to work together and helping individuals on an individual basis, rather than just signposting them and keeping our fingers crossed. The payback for us as a local authority is the more independent the individuals are the less they rely on our services which carries a clear cost benefit”.

Another initiative which successfully brings together a range of different partners is the Warmth for Wellbeing Project which is run by Brighton & Hove Citizens Advice Bureau. The project aims to tackle fuel poverty and excess Winter deaths by creating a single point of referral. Partners are far-reaching and include Brighton & Hove City Council, Age UK, Money Advice Plus, Mind, Brighton Women’s Centre and the British Red Cross.

When a user enters the project, they receive an assessment which triggers a series of relevant referrals. But rather than simply signposting, project coordinators then track the progress of each user to make sure they don’t fall through any gaps along the way. This new way of working encourages all parties to think of an individual in terms of the entire project, rather than one specific area.

With service organisations under increasing pressure to deliver, staff on the ground are supporting each other like never before. By keeping an open mind to collaboration, organisations are breaking through traditional departmental barriers and gradually eroding the silo mentality of the past. 


gary@empowering-communities.org

Empowering-Communities create and deliver innovative cloud-based solutions that have a positive impact on people's lives

 

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Ask The Expert

Posted By Heather Ette, 13 January 2017

What are the international comparisons in employer engagement?

 

Dr Jo Ingold reflects on findings from research in the UK and Denmark, presented at the ERSA Conference on 8 December 2016.

Employer participation and engagement

We surveyed over 1,500 employers in the UK and Denmark about their participation in employability programmes and identified two groups. The first we called ‘instrumentally’ engaged as they were involved on a one-off or ad hoc basis. The second group were ‘relationally’ engaged, as they had deeper, repeated and sustained engagement in various programmes and actively recruited from them. Danish employers were more relationally engaged than UK employers, with wage-subsidised schemes being most popular. Relationally engaged UK employers had participated in apprenticeships, pre-employment training and quasi-wage subsidy schemes. We explored this further in our interviews with over 100 employers and providers in both countries.

Information and trust

A stark difference between the UK and Denmark was that every Danish employer we interviewed had regularly participated in at least one programme, often more. UK employers’ participation in employability programmes was low (consistent with other studies) but use of apprenticeships was widespread. Government has heavily promoted apprenticeships rather than other programmes but employers also simply liked what apprenticeships offered. Not one UK employer we spoke to mentioned LEPs as a source of information about initiatives. Instead, they obtained information from formal or informal local business networks, sector skills bodies, cold calls from providers or pure luck with web searching or stumbling across the right local organisations.

Employers were quite sceptical about employability programmes. This was more about a lack of trust in the ‘system’ and government policies (e.g. policy initiatives unsuited to employer needs and the role of conditionality), rather than applicants coming through such routes. By contrast, in Denmark employers had more trust in government structures, particularly at the local level (policies are devolved). For the UK, employers’ weaker ‘institutional’ trust meant that forging ‘inter-personal’ trust between providers and employers had a more important role in employer engagement. 

‘Coopetition’ – a way forward?

‘Coopetition’ is a slightly inelegant term that describes collaboration between business competitors. The reality is that often employers’ recruitment and training requirements are greater than one organisation can provide. Providers who achieved ‘relational’ employer engagement offered a potentially attractive and broad menu of services and initiatives to employers, delivered through different parts of their organisation (often a result of mergers), or through local networks. Compared with our research with providers in the first years of the Work Programme, this research showed a change in providers’ willingness to collaborate with other organisations. How can this be harnessed with a smaller number of providers delivering Work and Health and with a differentiated role for Jobcentre Plus?

In Denmark policy delivery is supported by the use of comprehensive data about labour shortages, skills mismatches and unfilled vacancies. In the UK we could make better use of the wealth of labour market intelligence and evidence about ‘what works’ from both DWP and the provider network. This will involve sharing data across organisations but will be of mutual benefit and, importantly, will be of benefit in helping people into work.

For employers, the UK’s fragmented employment and skills ‘landscape’ means getting information and engaging in the plethora of different programmes is difficult. Employer engagement depends on personal relationships, which can’t be legislated for – not an easy message for policymakers! But government (and devolved governments) can set in place foundations that make it easier for employers to engage by having simpler and clearer structures. Local flexibilities are also important for encouraging the formation of employer hubs and networks, as well as coordinated approaches between organisations to employers.

 

       

Dr Jo Ingold is a Lecturer in Human Resource Management and Public Policy at Leeds University Business School. Her research interests include active labour market policies, the employment challenges for disabled people and parents/carers and policy learning between countries. Jo is currently undertaking research on employer engagement in employment and skills programmes in the UK and Denmark, funded by an ESRC Future Research Leaders Award. She is a member of the Associate Editorial Board of the leading sociology of work journal Work, Employment and Society and has previously worked in the voluntary sector and held posts in the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Education and Skills.

Jo is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and an Academic Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. The research presented here is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. More information about the project can be found here

Jo can be contacted at: j.ingold@leeds.ac.uk

Resources:

http://lubswww.leeds.ac.uk/fileadmin/webfiles/ceric/Documents/CERIC_Policy_Report_6.pdf     http://lubswww.leeds.ac.uk/fileadmin/webfiles/ceric/Documents/CERIC_Policy_Report_5.pdf     https://hbr.org/1995/07/the-right-game-use-game-theory-to-shape-strategy

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Ask The Expert

Posted By Jacquie Smallwood, Managing Director, AROHA, 23 October 2016
Updated: 20 October 2016

Are your leaders equipped for change?

By Jacquie Smallwood, Managing Director, AROHA

At the October IEP AGM it was fantastic to hear about the year’s achievements, particularly the focus on development of frontline staff.

In this era of rapid and uncertain change, where the only certainty is uncertainty, much is outside our control; government policy, welfare reform, the culture and capability of new partners and the characteristics and needs of customers. As more information becomes available there will be increasing demand on leaders and frontline staff to respond quickly and effectively to change, against a backdrop of reduced resources and increased competition.

I am therefore delighted there is support available for frontline staff to build their skills and capabilities by being mentored by an IEP Fellow. The opportunity to learn from professionals with significant industry experience is invaluable and will provide a different perspective from the formal training often provided. In my 30 years of business everyone I know who has worked with a coach or mentor has found this experience extremely beneficial, as a result of new opportunities and insights, improved self-awareness and resilience and ultimately improved performance.

However, in my experience. this support is often not available for leaders at a time when it is most needed and would bring most value. You should be asking - ‘what do our leaders need to enable them to react effectively to changes around them and ultimately ensure success in these dynamic environments?’ Your leaders are responsible for steering the organisation away from a fixed inflexible approach to a dynamic way of working.  A focus on equipping your leaders to embrace change will give you a leading edge and result in quicker more appropriate solutions and improved performance.

To improve your chances of future success start preparing for change now. Currently our leaders focus on either driving performance, designing the customer experience or delivery model, making the ‘numbers’ work, forging partnerships and trying to second guess policy and ministerial intent. Little time is allocated to leadership development through coaching and mentoring, which would result in greater self-awareness, the ability to think rapidly and creatively when under stress and adapt to changing business priorities and situations which are all essential for success. This approach cannot be put off until the ‘bids are in’. 

Many successful organisations such as Google, Apple, Virgin, who turned to leadership coaching during difficult times, subsequently adopted it as a ‘way of life’ to increase performance and the capability of their people. Coaching is not just about developing greater self-awareness, it provides tools and techniques needed for self-management and self-development, of which a big part is emotional agility and maturity.

Whilst coaching is individually focused and the solutions bespoke they are always about improving results in the context of work. This may take the form of one to one coaching or leadership coaching for the whole executive team followed by individual sessions over a defined period. Team coaching helps to align the individual, the team and their business goals. In all instances increased learning and positive change occur as a result of the relationship with the coach or mentor.

How in our complex, ever-changing and fast world are your leaders going to continue to add value and stay ahead of the competition?

 

Jacquie has over 30 years experience as a senior leader in the private, voluntary and public sectors in roles helping to transform the lives of the most disadvantaged in society. Jacquie is committed to suporting business leaders and their teams to lead more effectively and build more prosperous businesses and has delivered across the UK as a chairman, board member and senior executive reporting to the board. Jacquie has spent her career increasing revenue, winning new business, managing cultural and organisational change within a number of organisations as well as during mergers and acquisitions. Jacquie feels that organisations would benefit from more candour, deeper relationships, improved communication and pro-active development of talent within and she is passionate about retaining talent in the sector.

Jacquie offers leadership team training, individual and team coaching and mentoring and strategic advisory work to boards and organisations as well as business consultancy.

For more information:

E: jacquie@aroha.uk.com

M: 07554 994 850

aroha.uk.com

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