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Posted By Fran Parry FIEP, Bright Sparks Consulting, 17 February 2017
Updated: 01 February 2017

A challenge - grasping opportunity in uncertain times

by Fran Parry FIEP, Bright Sparks Consulting


If we doubted that we lived in “uncertain times” I doubt we doubt that now!  So far 2017 has been a year to either stay under the duvet or to put your head firmly above the parapet. There are no half measures.  Abroad President Trump’s first fortnight has signalled his clear projection towards deep conservatism and protectionism (and a lot of other “isms” better discussed elsewhere);   in the UK Article 50 is on its way and Brexit will now commence at some speed; in our sector we now know what the “umbrella framework” for the Work & Health programme looks like and which providers have been given a shot at prime status and which haven’t. 

On the basis that “fortune favours the bold” and staying in bed all day gets pretty boring I am taking the approach that not only can we ride out most of these crises but we can in fact, like the canny stock market player who plays the bear market, make something of them.  But we do have to be brave, speak up, think laterally and innovate.

As a founder design partner and a Fellow of the Institute of Employability Professionals I am committed to its development and growth so I am throwing down a serious challenge. The IEP must evolve, dramatically, if it is to meet the needs of its members.  Right now a significant proportion of those members will be very concerned about their personal employment situations.  With the massive reduction in the size of the new Work and Health Programme there will be a commensurate reduction in the number of professionals required to deliver it. 

However, there are considerable opportunities for the right people in Jobcentre Plus and in the growing Skills sector. I have been urging DWP and the IEP to work together on a joint staff development programme for years.  My hope now is that economic necessity will make this “no brainer” a reality.  We have a professional work force, Jobcentre Plus has the vacancies.  Let’s put the two together.  “Simples!”

Now I am working as an independent consultant I am increasingly undertaking commissions in the Skills sector and “Boy!” is this an exciting time.  Skills are at the heart of the Industrial Strategy Green Paper released last week. We absolutely have to up our Skills game if we are to succeed in the post-Brexit global market.  More of the same won’t do. We have to dramatically improve basic skills (the UK sits at a frankly shocking 19th and 24th in the OECD rankings of 35 countries for low and intermediate skills), address the skills variations across the country, match the skills needs to skills demand and create a response to skills needs that is proactive and fleet of foot.

In the past we defined Employability as assistance to get people in to jobs and there was a certain opaqueness about the relationship with Skills. We talked interminably about “integration” of the two.  Employability is of course so much more than that. It’s the whole life journey: from engaging and enthusing primary kids with ambition; delivering knowledgeable and exciting careers support to young people who are making life choices; supporting people in to work and between jobs; assisting them to retrain for new employment opportunities and to prepare for retirement.  

By its very definition then the potential opportunities for our “employability professional” members  are considerable and the realizable reach of the IEP is vast but reach out it must if it is to remain relevant, vibrant and ahead of the trends.

Fran Parry is MD of Bright Sparks Consulting Ltd.  She writes as an independent observer.  Fran can be contacted on or 07590 112912. 


This article first featured in FE News on 3rd February 17.

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