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Can You Overcome Career Fear and Find Genuine Happiness?
January 21, 2020

New research from think forward consulting has revealed that 75% of people in the UK are unhappy within their role. In a survey of almost 1500 workers, the findings were reflective of a largely unsatisfied workforce. This unhappiness appears to be down to three key issues: passion, recognition and environment.

Only 19% of respondents said that they were doing their dream job. A staggering 83% said that they were not recognised for doing a good job, and only 18% of respondents were allowed to work flexibly. These factors all conspire to create a largely unsatisfied workforce. The malaise gripping the UK workforce doesn’t discriminate when it comes to age, but the tendency to stay in an unhappy situation does.

Last year a Deloitte1 survey of 10,455 millennials (professionals under the age of 35) uncovered some telling trends – 43% of millennials plan to leave their current jobs within two years and only 28% plan to stay beyond five years. This short-termism is indicative of a millennial fearlessness that eludes the older generation. Millennials are not as afraid to act upon their dissatisfaction. They believe they have options with a conviction that older professionals may not.

The Think Forward Consulting research revealed that over a quarter (26%) of respondents feel stuck in their role. This is particularly pertinent to professionals between the age of 35-44, amongst whom 28% feel stuck. 26% of professionals over the age of 55 believe it’s too late to change things, compared to 12% of 18-24-year-olds. Business psychologist Penny Strutton says the career fear that comes with age can be overcome:

“It’s common that people become more fearful with age: children, mortgages and other obligations combine to create an illusion that it’s too late to change career. But this is just an illusion – people always have the power to change things, they just need a little reminder of that and some help along the way”.

Penny believes that it is never too late to change things, but that the relentlessness of work can make it appear that way. Her advice for older professionals is to step away from the rat race to reflect on what they truly want:

“Any big life change requires time and space. If you feel restless and trapped within your career, I would advise you take a break and restore the work/life balance that we are often deprived of.

For Penny this one decision could be lifechanging. In her view the feeling of being stuck is linked to the confinement of the work environment and an old belief that you have a job for life. The relative fearlessness that millennials enjoy is possible for the older professional. It’s not an exclusive privilege. For Penny, the key is stepping away:

“My hope is that older professionals develop the same attitude as millennials to their career. I’d advise them that age means little – one of our aims is to alter that mindset, and to show the older professional that their potential is limitless. Ultimately, we spend a lot of our lives in work, and we all deserve to feel happy in that environment”.

ARTICLE BY: Penny Strutton, Business Psychologist

Ex-SFA Deputy Director Slams Funding Management ahead of Ney Review

An ex-deputy director of the government’s skills funding agency has called for a return to “supportive” contract management for providers.

Ex-SFA deputy director slams funding management ahead of Ney review

Writing in FE Week, Tony Allen has criticised the way the Education and Skills Funding Agency manages funding contracts ahead of an imminent report by Dame Mary Ney (pictured) into oversight of college finances.

Ney’s review is expected to heavily criticise the ESFA for the calculations it uses to determine the financial health scoring and grading; as had it been more robust, it could have intervened in failing providers sooner.

Allen said when he worked at the then named Skills Funding Agency:

“We had a much better sense of what was going on.

“We advised and supported, managed risks and dealt with issues as they were arising. Face-to-face support by individual and group methods headed off many early problems.”

Allen worked in government for 13 years in a variety of roles including director of the SFA’s Large Companies Unit, before starting his own apprenticeship consultancy in 2016.

The SFA replaced Learning Skills Councils in 2010 and handled funding for the FE and skills sector before being replaced by the ESFA in 2017.

As part of Department for Education staffing cuts in 2016, the ‘supportive’ approach was dropped in favour of what Allen summarised as “a service desk approach” that is unusual in the public sector for allowing organisations to be given millions of pounds and told to “get on with it”.

“It was made clear that giving advice and support to colleges, and especially independent training providers, was not part of a ‘funding body’s’ role,” he says.

“Nobody was interested in the positive side of contract management or the benefits that could accrue, such as promoting apprenticeship growth.”

The agency now calculates financial health with a scoring system which allows providers to self-grade themselves by inputting three measures: one based on cash, another on debt and then margin.

This set of metrics then formulates an overall financial health grade of ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

Allen believes there is a “clear correlation” between the government’s abandoning the supportive approach and the number of high-profile financial failures among providers, including First4Skills3aaa and Hadlow College.

He is the latest sector leader to go public with criticism of the ESFA’s approach to overseeing college finances: Association of Colleges deputy chief executive Julian Gravatt said last week that the ESFA’s current approach was in need of change.

Aside from Ney’s report, it is also expected the National Audit Office’s value for money review on the management of colleges’ financial sustainability will be published in the summer.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

“The ESFA operates a risk-based approach to the oversight and monitoring of colleges, so that those at risk get regular contact with ESFA staff.

“Last year the department announced an independent review into how the government monitors colleges’ finances and financial management. Results of the review will be published in due course.”