"A4e A sporting chance"
up Front: round-up News news in brief Match Makers A4e France has held its third speed meeting, ‘Les Matinales d’A4e’, in Creteil, near Paris. Similar to a speed dating event, the initiative was part of A4e France’s innovation programme, and welcomed more than 100 people. The job seekers spent the evening networking with job providers, and as a result, six people were immediately offered jobs. Food For thought A4e clients at Swindon’s Employability Skills programme laid on a three-course meal for local MP Anne Snelgrove, who recently visited the Learning and Skills provision at the Shaftsbury Centre. Snelgrove was keen to find out how A4e Swindon is focusing on people developing their literacy and numeracy skills to get them back into work. A4e clients got up early and prepared the meal as part of a business plan called ‘A4e Curry in a Hurry’. They catered for more than 30 visitors, including bosses from JobCentre Plus and the Swindon Chamber of Commerce. The exercise was part of a plan to encourage clients to think creatively and look at ways in which they could potentially set up their own businesses. A sporting chance A new sporting partnership has been launched in the southwest to help people on incapacity benefit become more active and more employable through using a gym. The Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) and employment trainer, A4e Pathways to Work, have teamed up to offer subsidised gym use for people receiving incapacity benefit until they find sustainable employment. More than 30 leisure facilities have committed to the programme across Devon and Cornwall. The scheme was recently launched at the Brickfields Leisure Centre in Devonport by the Lord and Lady Mayoress of Plymouth. Emma Harrison, Chairman of A4e, said: ‘I’m very proud that Plymouth and the south-west of England are leading the way in developing our partnership with the IFI, and encouraging disabled clients to look at careers in the leisure industry. It’s also great that they have recognised that to stay fit and healthy, physical activity is very important.’ Sue Catton, National Director of IFI, said the potential knock- on impact of physical activity was much wider than simply getting fitter. ‘Getting fit and staying fit are fundamental to a healthy workforce, especially in an age where the employees are increasingly sedentary,’ she said. The partnership comes at a time when the government is investing heavily in persuading people to ‘eat well, do more and live longer’ through the Department of Health’s Change 4 Life Campaign. brighton treads a new path A4e’s Pathways to Work initiative was formally launched in Brighton recently, as part of the government’s flagship Pathways to Work programme. The Lord Mayor of Brighton, Councillor Garry Peltzer Dunn, joined Celia Barlow, MP for Hove, A4e staff and clients, and representatives from charities and Job Centre Plus to officially launch the scheme in the region. They were keen to see how it is already assisting local individuals receiving incapacity benefit get back into the workplace. Pathways to Work is a free, independent service that provides support from highly-skilled personal advisers and local partners to those suffering from ill-health. It provides work-focused interventions, removes existing barriers, and helps to raise confidence and self-esteem in order to get them back into sustainable employment. Denise Leander, District Manager for A4e in the Surrey and Sussex region, commented: ‘In other parts of the UK, Pathways is a successful resource. With this in mind, it is increasingly important that vital support services such as this are made widely available to communities such as Brighton during a heavy recession. ‘Pathways to Work continues to prove its worth, having helped over 100,000 people into work nationwide, with more than 200 of these individuals coming from the Surrey and Sussex area. This goes to show that if the right support and information is offered, individuals who are receiving incapacity benefit can find themselves better off financially as a result of getting back into employment.’ 4 blueprint suMMer 2009 up Front: round up Voicing opinions A series of workshops designed to give offenders a voice have been held by the charity, User Voice. Commissioned by A4e and supported by A4e’s team at HMP Channings Wood, the research was conducted as part of the pre-bidding process for the Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS), which A4e currently delivers across England. OLASS provides prison education and equipment, and prepares offenders with knowledge and skills such as reading and writing. It also focuses on employability, making sure that those leaving prison are as employable as possible, with skills such as plumbing, welding and car maintenance. One participant said: ‘I couldn’t read or write very well when I got here. I went into education now I have a level two, and found out that I can do it. I’m writing stories for the prison magazine now!’ Caroline Altounyan, Senior Business Development Manager for A4e, said that the results of the research were reassuring. ‘The glitches in the prison system mean that offenders often don’t get what they need, but we can deliver what they’ve said they want. In general, offenders want to learn more employability and vocational skills.’ User Voice, a user-led charity that transports the voice of those with experience of criminal justice into policy design and delivery, was set up by ex-offender, Mark Johnson. A former adviser to the National Probation Service and a consultant for policymakers on crime, homelessness and drug abuse issues, Johnson also pioneered The Prince’s Trust Working One to One with Young Offenders mentoring project. new horizons A4e’s Horizon programme, funded by the European Social Fund, has made a real difference to people’s lives by helping them get back on track after redundancies. Thanks to Horizon, Fred Bamborough, 54, from Gateshead, was helped back onto his feet after losing his job in the construction industry, having worked for seven years as a labourer. ‘I felt really down and depressed,’ he said. ‘I’d always loved being the breadwinner, and I thought my life was over.’ Things took a turn for the better, however, when he enrolled on the Horizon programme, and was immediately allocated a support worker. Having discussed his options, Bamborough decided to try for a job in the security industry, and the pair worked together to identify suitable jobs. ‘I didn’t want to go on the dole,’ he said. ‘When I started at A4e, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I could pop into the office and use the computer whenever I liked. I told them what kind of jobs I wanted and they were never off the phone. They were brilliant – really fantastic.’ A4e paid for him to take a training course and acquire his Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence, which was compulsory for the type of work he wanted to do. His support worker also helped him rewrite his CV and sent it off to prospective employers. Bamborough now has a job with Protector Security Services, monitoring schools and colleges overnight. He still receives calls from his project adviser, which he really appreciates. ‘They’ve kept in touch,’ he added. ‘It’s not like they forget about you.’ Success for job fairs A number of job fairs that were held in A4e offices in Exeter, Newton Abbot, Torbay and Plymouth have been hailed as a ‘great success’ by south-west business managers. A4e New Deal, Pathways, ESF Plymouth Works Plus, A4e Skills and LSC Employability Skills divisions worked cross-divisionally to help support local people to get back into work. Bosses from Plymouth, Exeter, Torbay and Newton Abbot city and town councils formally opened the business fairs to match local firms still in need of staff with people looking for jobs. Over 120 businesses from across the west country took part. The event offered a range of advice shops and one-toone sessions with help on how to perform in interviews. CV help was also on offer. Carol Boyd of A4e Plymouth Works Plus said: ‘Holding all the business fairs on the same day was such a success that A4e colleagues from Wales are now looking to do the same thing in Wales.’ Kevin Kelway, media spokesman for A4e South West, commented: ‘The idea of the business fairs was thought up by our New Deal Managers, including Liz Muir. We have written to HQ in Sheffield suggesting that A4e holds a Job Day globally to maximise our PR, marketing, and A4e brand with an international Make A Difference Day.’ blueprint suMMer 2009 5 up Front: round-up uk bid to host world youth congress A4e’s Chairman, Emma Harrison, is supporting a campaign to bring a world congress for young people to the UK and celebrate creativity across the globe. The aim is to stage the congress, involving more than 20 countries, in Plymouth in July 2010. Plans are also being made to ask Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Prince Charles to open the congress. A4e, Marjon College and ARROW (Art as a Resource for Reconciliation Over the World) recently held a business event in the south-west where more than 120 business leaders came to hear David Oddie MBE, Director of ARROW, ask for moral support for the UK to host the event. ‘We are so pleased at the support of the local business community,’ said Oddie. ‘It’s not about putting pressure on people to dig deep into their pockets, it’s about engaging interest for the west country to host the UK’s first international congress for the young.’ A positive response A4e has won a contract to deliver a redundancy response service to steel giant Corus, which announced that it would be cutting 2,500 UK jobs earlier this year. The contract will be delivered in partnership with Jobcentre Plus through its Welfare to Work services, and with Careers Wales through the Welsh Assembly Government ReAct Programme, which will give redundant workers a training grant designed to replace outdated skills with those sought by prospective employers. The service will look at issues such as: dealing with personal change; the labour market; transferrable skills; job leads and job searches; preparing a CV; writing self-marketing letters; application forms; telephone and interview techniques; using computers; self-employment, and employer engagement. A4e is also developing a dedicated ‘e-service’ website with multichannel support, called MyA4e Connect, which will be up and running in time for the start of the contract. It’s a webbased, comprehensive self-help resource that will offer: l A self-assessment tool to enable personalised journey management; l An online copy of the user’s action plan that can be reviewed, updated and forwarded to other support or training agencies; l An online, reviewable copy of the user’s CV; l An online resource base for registered job seekers with easy-to-find information, fact sheets and videos; Links to local support programmes, projects and services; l ‘Ask a Question’ functionality, where a job seeker can ask the knowledge base a question with automatic responses and/or phone back adviser support; and l An email communication system that sends targeted information, advice and guidance to job seekers registered with the service. Access to the service is via an individual password-protected secure registration process. Corus employees who engage with this service will be given training and free access to all of the services offered for a period of six months following their registration on the site. l a local Flavour Devon has become the first county in the UK to have its own local A4e website. The site, www. mya4edevon.co.uk, aims to bring together all of A4e’s crossdivisional offices in the county and promote local news stories, highlighting successes and up-and-coming events. Fuel Communications has been designing the site with A4e marketing bosses to give the website a truly local feel. A4e has been in Devon for nearly 11 years, and is at the heart of local communities. Steve Hart, District Manager for Devon and Cornwall Pathways, commented: ‘The new website will underline the fantastic organisations and people we work with across the area.’ 6 blueprint suMMer 2009 up Front: view froM the Chair Thinking the local Mps support unthinkable unemployed Two Bristol MPs, Stephen Williams and Kerry McCarthy, recently visited the A4e offices at Orchard Street, Bristol, to see for themselves how A4e’s Employability Skills provision is helping local folk get back to work. A4e Bristol offers free 15-week voluntary courses to anyone in the city claiming benefits, enabling them to get nationally-recognised literacy and numeracy qualifications. It also runs entrepreneurial sessions giving users help and advice such as CV writing, IT, preparation for work, interview techniques, confidence building and job search days. Kevin Kelway, southwest spokesman for A4e, said: ‘The PR blitz by local MPs is a real boon for our clients and staff alike. It’s also a real eyeopener for MPs to see for themselves how local people in Bristol are coping and retraining to get back into work. ‘We were particularly interested to show them how our clients are really positive. They’re looking forward not backwards, and learning new skills to rejoin the labour market.’ Rinku Khan, A4e Senior Tutor in Bristol, added: ‘In the current job climate, it is very important we give our clients the best support that we can to increase people’s job opportunities.’ eMMa harrison ChairMan, a4e y promise to myself this year has been to do new things – to put myself in places I would not normally be. And I don’t mind if once or twice I make myself uncomfortable or even a little embarrassed – everyone needs to push themselves, and be prepared to shrug it off and carry on when something doesn’t work out. That’s how we grow, and that’s the way I want us to grow our business. I want a business made up of leaders, and being a leader is all about doing new things, meeting new people and taking up new challenges and strategies. But listening to others is a big part of being a leader, too. When A4e was a small company, it was easy to absorb other people’s creativity to take the business further. But now, with nearly 4,000 employees globally, I have a fear that the imagination and creativity that created the company will get absorbed by systems and processes. Thinking green: Emma encourages her team to brainstorm. M poland forges ahead A4e Polska in Szczecin and Stargard has been awarded the Best EU Founded Project in Poland by the British Polish Chamber of Commerce at the recent BPCC gala event in Warsaw. Roy Newey expressed his delight, saying: ‘I’m particularly pleased as this is our first project in Poland, and I hope that the success of this programme will be continued during the next projects.’ A4e centres in Szczecin and Stargard have been in operation since November 2008, and more than 300 customers have already found support from personal advisors and recruiters. More than 60 customers have found employment, and 75 per cent of customers have gained vocational qualifications. What if we had to cut our carbon footprint in half? eMMa harrison To this end, we recently held a ‘What Next?’ meeting, where people were asked to come up with questions such as: What if we had to cut our carbon footprint by half? What if the government did not pay benefits? The idea was to get people to stop doing their jobs for a couple of hours, and get them to think the unthinkable. You never know where it’s going to take you – and we came up with plenty of ideas. We got to the good stuff by being prepared to spend time thinking and being creative – even the wackiest idea leads to others. It made me realise that the only thing that can stop you from thinking up new ideas and putting them into action is yourself. With a bit of help and inspiration from others, and the courage to think differently, we can all find new ways of doing things – whether that makes us uncomfortable or not. blueprint suMMer 2009 7