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Concerning Disability Unemployment Rate Needs Urgent Government Action
October 27, 2020
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ViewPoint: By Emma Greedy, HR magazine

Thousands of disabled employees have lost their jobs in the past year due to coronavirus, leading to calls for immediate government intervention. 

According to the Office of National Statistics, since March 2020 670,000 people have lost their jobs and the number of welfare claimants has increased by 120%.

Disability charity Scope has warned that disability employment faces a ‘cliff edge’ due to the pandemic. 

Its latest research found 48% of unemployed disabled people are concerned about their employment prospects for the rest of 2020 and 36% are concerned about being made redundant.

The charity has seen referrals for its employment support programme Support to Work increase by 65% year-on-year in June. 

That figure then surged to 230% in September 2020.

As the national furlough scheme transitions to the Job Support Scheme (JSS) at the start of November, Scope has urged government not to forget disabled people.

James Taylor, executive director of strategy, impact and social change at Scope, also advised HR leaders to make sure their processes are accessible.

He told HR magazine: “We’d recommend measuring the number of disabled people employed and asking disabled employees’ opinion on how well the company is creating an inclusive workplace. And back that up with training for line managers to become confident about how to support disabled people.

“Most companies review what they do all the time. It’s about using some of these strategies and tactics to assess how they support disabled people, and then based on what they learn, create an action plan to become even better employers.”

Virgin Media has partnered with Scope to help more disabled people into work. Its chief operating officer Jeff Dodds said that the employer had taken a number of steps to transform the experience for disabled employees and customers, including having board-level accountability and updating HR policies.

Speaking to HR magazine, he added: “I have seen first-hand the benefits of employing disabled people, who bring diversity of thought, determination, and creativity to the workplace.

“I’d urge businesses to do all they can to support disabled people – particularly during this very challenging time. This includes joining our free #WorkWithMe programme which helps businesses become more inclusive employers of disabled people with information and practical advice on how to improve their workplace policies, practices and culture for disabled people.”

Scope’s research on disability unemployment was conducted through an online poll on YouGov with a total sample size 4,013 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8 to 10 July 2020.

ViewPoint: Navigating Careers in the Never Normal
October 13, 2020
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This article by Julie Winkle Giulioni was published in SmartBrief.

Shortly after the global pandemic changed the face of the workplace, writers and leaders began contemplating the new normal — how the world would be once things settled down. Months in, as reality took hold, the language shifted from “new” to “next” – as “normal” became a moving target.

After more than six months, millions of lost jobs and countless pivots in service of evolving conditions and customer needs, we must again adjust how we talk about what’s to come. We might need to let go of what we used to know and acknowledge that the kind of stability and predictability we enjoyed in the past won’t return.

We’re not going back

By all accounts, we’re not going back to normal or new or next. And a range of factors — many established long before COVID-19 — are contributing to today’s never-normal-again environment.

  • Organizations were already under productivity and profit pressure. They were already leveraging assets and optimizing resources, doing exponentially more with less.
  • Competition was coming from new and varied sources. (Who would have imagined Amazon getting into the real estate business?) As a result, organizations were becoming more attuned, alert and anxious about protecting market share and expanding their pieces of the pie.
  • Disruption was the name of the game in early 2020. Now the combination of a global pandemic, economic downturn and racial inequity has left individuals and organizations feeling insecure and on unstable ground.
  • Workforce dynamics are in flux as working from home becomes the standard rather than the exception, which shifts power dynamics and democratizes opportunity. Whether one works as a vice president at corporate headquarters or as a supervisor out of a garage in Topeka, Kan., everyone occupies the same size tile and has the same volume voice in the new online workspace.

With so many forces and factors conspiring to reshape the business landscape, we should not expect a return to normal. To the contrary, we should expect a kaleidoscope of change coming at an unprecedented pace.

Savvy leaders and employees who recognize this new reality also recognize the implications, as well as the powerful opportunities for growth and career development within our never-normal environment. 

Never normal means more informal

The opportunities for growth are plentiful, but only for leaders and employees who embrace new approaches to learning and development. We can no longer rely upon old, formal, programmatic formulas. What’s needed are more organic, self-driven and informal means to mine the richness that the workplace has to offer.

Four shifts can introduce infinitely more opportunities for growth.

  1. Continuous learning must give way to creative learning through an ever-growing circle of resources. It’s been said that information is power. But given the nearly unlimited volume of data at our fingertips and speed with which things change, we can’t always wait for insights to be formally documented and chronicled, even if we could find it all. We need to go to the source: the people around us. That’s why the freshest and most necessary learning now happens in real time, in informal person-to-person interactions. As a result, tapping an always-growing network of resources is a powerful development and success strategy. 
  2. Agility equals ability. Seeing what’s next and pivoting gracefully will not only protect careers, it also will grow them in new, interesting and meaningful ways. Invest effort into becoming more flexible and nimbler in your thinking and actions. It’s one of today’s most highly valued competencies and will likely remain so.
  3. DIY development no longer only means “do it yourself.” In recent years, it’s become increasingly evident that employees must own their careers, taking the lead as they work with their leaders to craft plans to support their goals. While that philosophy remains valid, DIY today also stands for “develop individual yardsticks.” The days of the predictable progression up the corporate ladder are long gone. Continuing to hold those expectations as the measure of career success will only lead to disappointment and disengagement.As a result, everyone at every level of the organization must redefine success in ways that align with today’s realities. We must stop focusing on what we want to be. Instead of obsessing over promotions and position, we must begin defining career success in terms of the kind of work we want to do, the problems we want to solve and the challenges we want to embrace. This, then, becomes a unique and personal yardstick for success.
  4. Ad hoc feedback is the new individual development plan. The speed at which the workplace is changing and the uncertainty that accompanies it has rendered the idea of annual anything useless. Think about your development plans instituted last year. Much has likely been rendered null and void. The infrequent, formal conversations of the past simply don’t operate at the speed of business today. But, do you know what does? The day-in and day-out feedback we get from colleagues, customers, suppliers, contractors and others with whom we regularly interact. This informal feedback offers the insight, redirection and focus required for relevant growth and career success, especially during times of uncertainty and change.

There’s little that we can predict about the months and years ahead. Still, one thing is for sure. It won’t be the normal that we’d all come to know and love. Holding on to a new or next version of that will likely only leave us disappointed and unprepared.

Letting go of these expectations and embracing reality may not be easy. But it’s definitely the first step toward preparing for the growth and development required of a never-normal future.

Julie Winkle Giulioni works with organizations worldwide to improve performance through leadership and learning.  Named one of Inc. Magazine’s top 100 leadership speakers, Giulioni is the co-author of the Amazon and Washington Post bestseller “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want,” You can learn more about her speaking, training and blog at JulieWinkleGiulioni.com.

ViewPoint: Unlocking the Post-Covid Potential of Apprenticeships

By John Yarham, Interim CEO of The Careers & Enterprise Company.

The A level results season revealed much about our prevailing national mind-set and attitudes to learning and qualifications.

John Yarham, Interim CEO of The Careers & Enterprise Company

Amid the outcry and confusion about school leavers’ prospects for admission to university, was an almost deafening silence about the impact of Covid and exam-grading on those seeking to move from education into employment or training. – the course the majority take.

The issue takes us down a well-trodden path of discord between academic qualifications versus vocational learning and pathways.

The pivotal importance of apprenticeships

recent report by the Centre for Social Justice highlighted the pivotal importance of apprenticeships in developing learning, skills and providing opportunity. It also identified the challenges we face in unleashing their full potential, including the perennial problem about raising the status of apprenticeships in the UK.

Unlike Germany, we don’t have a Mittelstand, which creates a significant demand-pull for apprenticeships and places a premium on technical skills and learning; our services dominated economy leans towards different skills sets and our education system has built-in incentives that have tended to push pupils towards academic choices over vocational.

We also face immediate pandemic related pressures that seem likely, certainly in the short-term, to limit opportunity. Many employers have made business-survival decisions to put apprenticeship intake on hold. In such circumstances, opportunities to create apprenticeship places will be at a premium.

Employers determined to support young people despite many predicting a downturn in apprenticeship places

However, despite the immediate and long-standing challenges, evidence also points to a growing awareness about the importance of apprenticeships, both in providing opportunity to young people and developing the talent the economy needs. In August, the Government seized an opportunity to increase the number of nursing apprenticeships as a response to the surge of interest in health careers.

In a recent poll by Savanta Comres for The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC), of business leaders amongst Britain’s largest employers, more than three quarters (77%) said employers should be now looking to increase apprenticeships. A similar proportion (76%) said there was now an increased need to support young people entering work.

Teachers now recognise employability skills as more important than exams

Educators are also increasing their recognition of the apprenticeship route. More than four in five schools (83%) without a sixth form now report through the CEC’s Compass platform that their young people have had the full range of information on apprenticeships. This drops slightly to 79 percent in schools with sixth forms – a sign of the lingering incentive towards academic routes. However, it is a vast improvement from 44 percent in 2017.

Teachers now recognise employability skills are more important than academic qualifications in preparing young people for their working lives. In a recent poll of 5,000 teachers by Teacher Tapp, almost three-quarters – 74% – say skills like teamwork and public speaking will equip pupils to secure a good job in these uncertain economic times. In contrast, 62% say the same about good academic qualifications.

9 out of 10 Young People have now had apprenticeships discussed with them

Young people themselves say they are now more aware of apprenticeships. The recent Youth Voice Census found that 86 percent of young people have had apprenticeships discussed with them. Our own Future Skills research, which identifies the impact of careers education on young people’s decision making about their next steps, found that 55 percent say they have thought about whether an apprenticeship is right for them and 58 percent have thought about whether moving straight to work after education is best next step for them.

What is certain, particularly in the current challenging and uncertain environment, is that more support will be necessary to unlock the true potential of apprenticeships. Government’s package of support for Kickstart, training and apprenticeships is timely step in that direction. Allied to such measures, enabling schools and colleges to refocus on equipping their students to make informed and ambitious decisions regarding their futures is more important than ever.

This support will be vital in providing a bridge between the crisis management solutions necessary to combat the immediate effects of the pandemic and a longer-term recovery plan with apprenticeships at the forefront.

John Yarham, interim CEO, The Careers & Enterprise Company

ViewPoint: Careers Advisers – Are We Ready for the New Normal?
August 26, 2020
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By Sarfraz Ahmed, Careers Advisors, Leicester College

Since March 2020, the vast majority of career services, and providers such as schools, colleges and universities transferred all their services to providing a service remotely.

© Sarfraz Ahmed, August 2020 - Member of the Careers Writers Association

For our own health and safety, the vast majority of us worked from home.

Through the combination use of:

  • Telephone Guidance
  • Video Chat
  • Live Streams
  • E-guidance
  • Social Media

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, all of us have had to rethink the way we work and engage with our customers, Although this has meant a shift in the way that we engage with our customers, it has been a positive in the sense that many of us have had to embrace technology such as using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, using Streamyard for Live Streams.

Personally, whilst in lockdown, I’ve had the opportunity to record my first podcast and been a guest on local radio in Leicester and nationally as well. Telephone guidance has been successful for providing advice especially to support Educational, Healthcare Plans (EHCP) reviews, and has allowed the College Careers Team to effectively support the work of Additional Support Managers to effectively provide progression for students from their current course.

Live streaming has taken Careers Advisers and placed them in front of a ‘live’ audience albeit through a variety of social media platforms. This has for many taken away from the traditional method of delivery and has taken them out of their comfort zones. Live streaming can be daunting, as not only are you seeing yourself on a screen for the first time, but your advice and the way that you give that advice is immortalised online, and available on a variety of platforms such as Facebook Live and YouTube. Live stream content can be readily accessed time and time again, locally, nationally and internationally, as with any careers activity, preparation and practise is essential something that is crucial for a success live stream.

Another activity that careers advisers have engaged in is blogging, whether its physically writing articles or ‘blogs’ or creating ‘video blogs’ or podcasts. I personally find these a fun way to engage with an audience, and often practitioners point of view will provide real life context that may support an academic piece of research. Lockdown and working from home has given rise to engaging in webinars, within a week I could be engaging in at least four or five webinars a week. These were provided by universities, colleges, careers publications and websites.

I particular found the webinars from Youth Employment UK, Career Pilot, Amazing Apprenticeships, DMH Associates and EMSI particular useful and informative. Engaging with other professionals can make you feel that you are part of wider collective, especially we are all in the ‘same boat’, and a lot of the issues and concerns we had were similar. Often these webinars led to further debate and discussion on sites such as LinkedIn, as shared our thoughts, articles and findings and collectively we supported each other online.

Now three months on, the ideas of going back to work in the office can appear to be a very daunting thought to say the least

Talking to career professionals there are many areas of concern. First and foremost safety and protection for both themselves and those that they serve, whether or the use of screens and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves and hand sanitisers will be enough to adequate protection. Will social distancing be feasible within a careers setting such as in interview rooms and in offices where we provide 1:1 careers guidance, interview rooms will have to ventilated and not crowded and be able to provide adequate protection, this includes spaces such as classrooms and group work settings. Large assemblies and events will have to take account health and safety issues and in many cases will have to be re-thought.

There clearly needs to be a more flexible approach to working, as the last few months have shown that many career services can be run successfully remotely. This could include a more staggered return to the office allowing some staff to work from home, so that staff is not in the office at the same time, ensuring that social distancing guidelines are met.

In the past few months many of us have embraced technology, especially the use of Microsoft Teams to have meetings with colleagues, to contact students, to conduct video interviews, and deliver group work sessions online. This shift for many has been challenging and a huge learning curve as prior to the lockdown very few of us used Microsoft Teams or any other similar technology.

I feel a ‘blended approach’ is crucial for a safe return to going back to work, although working from home can still be maintained to a certain extent. Travelling to and from work and to other venues are also issues for many career advisers as safety could be also be an issue on public transport. For those working in schools, colleges and universities, there is still a concern of potential risk of having large number people gathered in one place and how this will be managed and maintained.

The recent upsurge of interest in career guidance as well as the government’s commitment has meant that the government will be looking to increase the number of advisers to help address issues of unemployment and misplacement as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. As such we do not know how this will be tackled and indeed if there enough advisers to meet the demand, we will have to wait and see.

Many careers professionals have been concerned about the level of pay and its inconsistency across the board. Career advisers in schools and colleges are yet to be paid a wage that is reflects their level 6 minimum level of qualification, (equivalent to degree Level) and many have additional postgraduate qualifications and higher as well as the constant research and training necessary to keep up to date, especially in times of change, this has been evident in the recent pandemic crisis.

In recent times due a shift in policy which has led to a downsizing of services such as Connexions, meant many Careers Advisers have had to refocus and retrain and as such the profession has lost a lot of talented and dedicated advisers, through a barrage of pay cuts, redundancies and a loss of opportunity to progress in their own careers. Clearly these underlying issues will still need to be addressed if the is a demand for careers advisers in the future.

Why careers guidance is more important than ever

Interesting enough Sir John Holman’s recent blog entitled “Why careers guidance is more important than ever”, published on the Association of Colleges (AoC) website (10 July 2020), highlighting the need for good careers guidance, especially in the current climate.

He also emphasised that careers guidance needs to be a priority in schools and colleges, and that careers guidance needs to be taken seriously and that commitment needs to come from the top through Career Leads, ensuring that “careers is being embedded across the curriculum”.

He felt that “Colleges are critical for protecting those vulnerable students in their community who have most to lose as the jobs market goes through turbulent change. As job opportunities disappear, new ones will appear, and good career guidance can steer students towards them.

Recent governments guidelines in terms of the Gatsby Benchmarks (2014), and the Careers Strategy (2017), will still have to be adhered to, however Careers Services and Advisers may need to rethink the way there guidance is delivered in a post Covid world.

As careers resources may need to be adapted traditional guidance techniques for a new generation, using new technology to deliver to groups, and to perhaps adopt a more ‘blended’ approach, through the use of live streams, and uploading content onto readily accessible platforms such as Facebook Live and YouTube.

In preparing for the new normal, our services and our practises will need to be flexible and adapts to ensure that we operate in a safe environment that helps to meet the needs of our customers more than ever.

Nine Things FE WEEK Learned from the ESFA’s 2019-20 Annual Report and Accounts

By Billy Camden

The Education and Skills Funding Agency has this afternoon published its annual report and accounts for 2019-20, revealing college loan write-offs, hefty fraud investigation costs and salary boosts for top civil servants.

FE Week has the main findings:

Nine things we learned from the ESFA’s 2019-20 annual report and accounts

1. College keeps £15m in overpayments 

During the last financial year, South Thames College received an ESFA capital grant to “facilitate the acquisition of the site for a new school”.

The agency paid the college a total of £15,160,000 in “overpayment”, which has now been waived.

The ESFA’s accounts state: “In certain circumstances over-payments of grants can occur when grant payment profiles for educational bodies are based on expected learner numbers which are not supported by actual numbers or where capital grants are eligible for recovery.

“One example relates to our waiver of the capital grant recovery from South Thames College to facilitate the acquisition of the site for a new school.”

Other waivers of overpayments include £823,000 for Manchester Creative Studio and £609,000 for Wigan UTC.

2. Abandoned FE loans costs drop substantially

Across all education streams in 2019-20, the ESFA reported claims waived or abandoned of £25 million for this year compared to £62 million the year before.

The agency said this has reduced due to the completion of the college restructuring programme which implemented recommendations from the area reviews of post-16 colleges.

The only FE sector loan to be waived in 2019-20 was £1,750,000 for Trafford College, which was handed exceptional financial support for its merger with Stockport College. Trafford is also currently working on plans to merge with the troubled Cheadle and Marple Sixth Form College, but this process was delayed earlier in the year owing to Covid-19.

3. 115 ‘compliance reviews’ of ITPs…

The ESFA said it “strengthened our oversight and assurance activities”, increasing the amount of resource dedicated to ensuring the “proper” use of public funds and engaging more with the sector.

As part of this, the agency delivered 115 compliance reviews on independent training providers (ITPs) with 21 additional control visits.

4. …but fraud continues to be a problem

Fraud hit the agency for £5.6 million in 2019-20, which mainly relates to two unnamed “specific cases” that are not yet in the public domain.

Recovery of the identified losses “remain ongoing”. During the year the ESFA was able to recover £8,119.

At 31 March 2020 the agency had a total of 82 live investigations and allegations to carry forward into 2020-21.

This comprises 19 on-going academy trust cases at “various stages” of the investigation cycle and similarly, 63 live cases relating to colleges and independent training providers.

The ESFA said the formation of new academy trusts and mergers continued to rise in 2019-20 with academies increasing by around 900 in-year.

Whilst there has not been a “significant” rise in the number of academy investigation visits compared to 2018-19, there is a “continuing slightly upward trend aligned to sector growth”.

Additionally, in response to changes in apprenticeships funding “we have seen a rise in the number of allegations this year”.

5. 894 providers removed from apprenticeship provider register

Last year the ESFA launched a refreshed and “strengthened” Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP) through stronger criteria added to the application process and complete re-registration of providers.

There are now 2,067 providers on the register, and during the process the agency removed 894 providers who did not meet the new criteria.

6. Overall underspend mainly because of apprenticeships

The ESFA’s total outturn was £58.57 billion against a budget of £58.83 billion, a 0.4 per cent underspend. This included £58.51 billion expenditure on “grant and other funding, the balance of expenditure was in respect of staff costs and operating expenditure”.

The agency said the variance on resource funding was largely attributable to an underspend on apprenticeships.

As revealed by FE Week earlier this month, the Treasury took back £330 million of unspent apprenticeships funding last year.

7. Learning Record Service data breach investigation ongoing

An investigation was launched in January after betting companies were “wrongly provided access” to an education database containing the information of 28 million children.

This was the only “protected personal data related incident” for the ESFA that was judged significant enough to be formally reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office during 2019-20.

The ICO was notified that a learning provider, Trustopia, registered with the Learning Records Service (LRS), had been working with another company to use their access to the database for the purposes of ID verification for “non-educational purposes, in clear breach of their agreement with DfE”.

The personal data comprised of the name, date of birth, gender and postcode of 380,000 individuals registered with the LRS.

The ESFA’s accounts state that the ICO is continuing its investigation and will “contact the Department for Education once the investigation is concluded”.

8. Pay rise and bonuses for ESFA’s top officials

Chief executive Eileen Milner saw her salary increase from £140-145,000 to £150-155,000 whilst also bagging a bonus of up to £5,000.

Peter Mucklow, director of further education, saw his wage increase from £95-100,000 to £100-105,000 whilst receiving a bonus of up to £15,000.

The accounts say the pay boosts for both civil servants were made after they took on “additional responsibilities in 2018-19 which were reflected in their salary in 2019-20 and included an element of back pay”.

The only other top ESFA official to receive a pay rise was director of academies Mike Pettifer – from £1150-120,000 to £125-130,000 – after he “took on additional responsibilities from September 2018 which were for the remainder of 2018-19 and for the full year in 2019-20.”

Pettifer was also paid a bonus of up to £10,000.

9. £1.4m paid to firms linked to ESFA board members

The accounts show £964,000 was paid to Hays Travel, a company owned by family members of ESFA chair Irena Lucas. She is also the chair at Hays, one of the UK’s largest independent travel agents.

A further £984,000 was paid to the firm in 2018-19.

Meanwhile, another £684,000 was paid to Voyage Care, were ESFA board member Stuart McMinnies is a non-executive director. The firm provides support for people who have complex needs.

ViewPoint: Covid 19 and Remote Working: Beware the ‘TEMPLE OF ZOOM’
June 15, 2020
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ARTICLE BY Ab Banerjee

Just as in nature, survival among businesses is determined by the ability to adapt to change. 

It’s estimated that as a result of the coronavirus pandemic a quarter of the world’s population now finds itself living under some form of quarantine restrictions. Hundreds of millions of workers spread across multiple continents all suddenly find themselves forced to work remotely and in isolation from their teams. This detachment risks a loss of staff cohesion, a collapse in productivity and, ultimately, a decline in overall commercial function.

Everyday face-to-face interaction in the workplace between co-workers themselves and their managers is often valuable for all parties. We can use it to pose questions, offer updates, gather feedback, read body language, benchmark our performance and, ultimately, collate the information to inform our decision-making. But, by losing the close physical proximity of the working environment we lose this feedback mechanism.

Overcommunication and the rise of the ‘Temple of Zoom’
Organisations have recognised this loss and have looked to compensate. The event and conference provider, TED, for example, has begun creating virtual spaces where staff can have the simulated experience of working alongside their co-workers in a relaxed coffee shop environment. More common, though, is the widespread embrace of videoconferencing platforms, such as Zoom, and online team collaboration tools like Slack.

There are few winners from the coronavirus crisis, but Zoom is one of them. It’s been used to host birthday parties, business meetings and even Cabinet briefings. App tracking firm Apptopia has reported that Zoom was downloaded 2.13m times around the world on 23 March, the day the lockdown was announced in the UK – up from 56,000 a day two months earlier. The company’s share price has more than doubled since the start of the year.

The difficulty is applications such as Zoom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams have their pitfalls. In a bid to compensate for the loss of everyday informal interaction, managers and co-workers often lean towards having more phone calls, scheduling more frequent videoconferences, and sending more emails. All of a sudden momentary and informal discussions in the office have escalated into regular, lengthy video seminars involving multiple team members and often with no guarantee employees will gain the knowledge they’re looking for. Communication overloads. Productivity slumps.

Providing an effective feedback and performance mechanism
Platforms such as Zoom are effective for brainstorming sessions and formal business meetings, but they shouldn’t be relied upon as an effective forum for receiving feedback and performance assessment. Not everything you see on people’s faces is necessarily easy to interpret. Also, in group settings it’s almost impossible to get a sense of how you (and even more importantly your team) are perceived. 

A key challenge facing managers is how to provide remote workers with an effective facility through which they can receive feedback and measure their cooperation with co-workers.

We’ve spent lots of time looking at and understanding how teams interact and deliver feedback. We’ve developed a tracking metric for team cooperation called TeamScore which acts as a performance tracker for use by teams, both in the office and remotely. It combines a diagnostic toolkit to help teams understand where they need to improve, and crowdsourced feedback and coaching advice to understand how they can.

In a remote working environment, the need for feedback becomes heightened, but the capacity to receive it is reduced. By providing team members with a platform through which they can individually, and as a team, receive and offer real-time feedback in the form of performance ratings and constructive suggestions for improvement satisfies this need. It helps individuals and teams find meaning by being empowered to do good work whilst also being recognised for it. Importantly, it also does so without the disruption associated with having multiple videoconferences.

Cooperation is also a two-way street. The feeling of having a voice, being heard, and seeing tangible improvements in outcomes is among the most empowering enablers of employee engagement and one of the opportunities most at risk from remote working. The platform gives remote working individuals and teams the ability to give feedback to others too, whether to individuals, to other teams or even to teams external to their organisation.

This last element, the provision of an effective feedback mechanism to individuals and teams in external organisations, such as a client or other important stakeholders is in some ways even more critical. Struggling to adapt to remote working themselves, often these teams will have an even lower tolerance and capacity for frequent, disruptive Zoom calls to deliver feedback. This leaves the provider in search of an alternative option. Less invasive, online, real-time and interactive platforms like ViewsHub satisfy this function.

Beyond Zoom
The coronavirus pandemic has brought massive change to all our lives. Remote working is one. Technological innovations such as Zoom are invaluable tools to help maintain team cohesion and function. But we must be careful of overreliance and overcommunication. Online real-time feedback platforms and easily digestible performance trackers for team performance offer the facility to boost productivity, encourage effective team working, and continually track client-service levels. 

Ab Banerjee, CEO of ViewsHub

ViewPoint: ‘Furious’ AELP Boss Says Government Wants Skills Sector to Collapse
March 24, 2020
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The government’s goal seems to be for the skills sector to “collapse”, a “furious” Mark Dawe has told FE Week after officials failed to provide apprenticeship funding support during the Covid-19 crisis.

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive tonight lambasted the “disgraceful” decision and demanded an urgent meeting with skills minister Gillian Keegan.

New guidance released by the Department for Education stated that policy “does not allow payment for services in advance of delivery”, so funding for apprenticeships cannot be made until the training has taken place.

The situation has left providers in a “battle to survive”.

Dawe told FE Week: “I am furious that after weeks of discussions the government has made no attempt to provide any assurance to independent providers and end-point assessment organisations as to any future funding relating to any of their delivery.

“It seems their goal is for the sector to collapse and remove any delivery to apprentices, other learners and their hundreds of thousands of employers.  As things stand tonight, there is only one word – disgraceful.”

Here is his reaction in full: “The omission of any DfE funding support for apprenticeships and other skills training goes completely against the assurance offered by the Secretary of State to the House of Commons last week.

“ We are left to conclude that the government is not serious about apprenticeship training or any other forms of skills training continuing while the pandemic goes on or that it is very happy to preside over many independent training providers (ITPs) going out of business over the next three months.

“How are providers expected to implement the proposed flexibilities in today’s statement if they have vastly reduced income coming in? It is now a battle for survival. The majority of provider staff will be furloughed which means they will not be available to support the training of apprentices and other learners.

“Coming after Friday’s guaranteed funding support for mainstream FE provision, the DfE statement adds insult to injury. For example, it says that “government policy does not allow payment for services in advance of delivery” and yet this is precisely what it announced for colleges on Friday.  ITPs delivering adult education, traineeships and other forms of training have similarly been offered zero assurance by today’s statement.

“Then on apprenticeships, the statement goes further and lays down terms for clawback of funding from independent training providers if the crisis means that apprenticeships can’t be completed.  Given that it is not their fault that they cannot gain access to apprentices or assess them, this is beyond the pale.

“Unless the government urgently rethinks its stance that it has had two weeks to think about, we are likely to see the start of the collapse of the training and assessment sector over the next week unless action is taken on funding, and those employers who want training and assessment to continue will have no place to go when this is over.

“Colleges only deliver 2 per cent of apprenticeship training.  This means that they are no position to rush in and fill the gaps that will appear in key sectors and in many towns and rural areas across the country, including the Red Wall areas, if ITPs, who deliver nearly seven out of 10 apprenticeships, start going bust.  Niche provision in sectors like textiles will also suffer very badly.

“Another important point on the quality of provision is that nearly all ITPs have made the transition across to the new apprenticeship standards whereas less than six months away from the switch-off of frameworks, many colleges are lagging in making the change.

“So employers looking to get back on their feet after the end of the pandemic will find that the apprenticeships that they want won’t be available to them.  And soon that other oven-ready solution of EU migrant labour won’t be there either to fill the gaps.

“What about this year’s school-leavers aged 16 or 18?  Where are the opportunities going to be for them if lots of apprenticeship training providers are no longer around?

“This is why any further delay on a funding support package for apprenticeships and ITPs is totally unacceptable.

“AELP has this evening demanded an urgent meeting with the apprenticeships and skills minister.  We also hope that MPs on the Commons Education Committee will be raising these issues with the minister when she appears before them on Wednesday.”

ViewPoint: Reasons to be Cheerful About Careers Education?
March 6, 2020
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By John Yarham

Arguing about whether a glass is half-empty or half-full is a futile task. The whole point is that both are true, depending on your perspective.

John Yarham, Interim Chief Executive at the Careers & Enterprise Company
John Yarham, Interim Chief Executive at the Careers & Enterprise Company

The more helpful point to debate is whether the glass is filling-up or emptying. Are schools making progress, or are they falling behind? Are we moving in the right direction, or are we going backwards?

It’s National Careers Week this week, as well as being the last year of the Government’s Careers Strategy.

So now is a good time to have that debate about the state of careers education.

Research informed debate

Two recent pieces of research have helped to inform the debate. Education and Employers published a report looking at the careers aspirations of young people. Just over half of young people (53%) felt that their school or college had spent enough time helping them to understand future career options.

A month ago we also published research that took a measurement of the state of careers education provision in schools and colleges across the country. Specifically, we looked at how many young people are benefitting from the opportunity to regularly interact with employers while at school.

This matters in the real world because there is a weight of evidence that enjoying more ‘employer encounters’ while at school improves young people’s employability and earnings in later life. It even has an impact on their motivation and results while at school.

It matters to the Government so much that in 2017, they set an ambitious target that every single young person in the country would benefit from at least one such ‘employer encounter’ every year by the end of 2020.

A long way to go

Our report highlighted that one-in-five young people are still missing out on such regular employer encounters. On its own, this stat could leave us with the feeling that the glass was very much half-empty. And we’re first ones to admit there is a long way to go.

But it’s important that people don’t lose sight of the fact that careers education has been transformed for the better over last couple of years. There is strong evidence that schools and colleges are going in the right direction. And most importantly many, many more young people are benefiting.

In 2017, the year the Government published the Careers Strategy setting these targets, we made our first assessment to provide a baseline. This showed that to meet these targets, schools, colleges and businesses would need to work together to provide an additional 1.2million employer encounters every single year by the end of 2020. A huge task.

More and more young people benefiting

The evidence we published last month showed that as of July 2019, this gap had fallen massively. In just two years, and from a standing start, half a million more young people every year are benefiting from meeting employers.

There is still a big gap to fill, and it’s not going to be easy or straightforward. But this represents significant progress, and a significant benefit for more and more young people. The gap was never going to be closed overnight.

The approach that this country is taking to careers education is like nothing that has gone before. Reflecting the autonomy of schools and colleges, an emphasis has been placed on providing them with the tools and support to drive improvement themselves.

Employers have been at the forefront of efforts to support young people, with a common language – the Gatsby Benchmarks – underpinning all activity. Over the last couple of years, schools, colleges, employers have bought into this approach and young people are enjoying the benefits.

Ambitious goals, but the approach is working

The period from July 2019 to the end of 2020 has given schools and colleges 18 months to make more progress against the Careers Strategy ambition. The energy and thrust schools, colleges and employers are showing provides confidence that we can reduce the gap much more.

It was right that the Careers Strategy set ambitious goals that are hard to achieve, even if that can sometimes make the scale of the task seem daunting. So, at this point in time, is the glass half-full or half-empty? Well, we fully expect that debate to continue, and we welcome the healthy challenge provided.

But it would be a shame if that debate made us lose sight of the fact that the approach we’re taking is working. It would be a mistake to go back to a time when work experience was a box ticking exercise, rather than something schools could own as part of their commitments to students’ well-being.

More and more young people are benefiting and that’s what matters.

John Yarham, Interim Chief Executive at the Careers & Enterprise Company

John was previously chief executive at Futures Management Group, and director of economic development and skills and learning at Nottingham City Council.

ViewPoint: This is Why Career Plans are Bad for Employees
March 4, 2020
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By STACEY ENGLE

growth plan

Organizations must prioritize professional development if they want to retain talent. It’s that clear cut and simple.

This statement was controversial 10 years ago, but thank goodness it is more accepted today. Most leaders at some level will say yes, true, we need to provide professional development. 

However, what is still quite controversial is demanding leaders to have growth conversations that put employees in the driver’s seat.

Let me be clear: many leaders encourage employees to be accountable for their own development, but it is a much different ball game when leaders have employees choose to drive and step into their own development. 

According to GALLUP, 87 percent of millennials and 69 percent of non-millennials rate professional or career growth and development opportunities as important to them in a job. Yet according to CEB, 70 percent of employees are dissatisfied with their company’s growth options and choices.

Here’s the thing — what’s often missing from the career path conversation is an emphasis on allowing the individual to plot their own course of growth. Asking the right questions. Creating pre-planned paths for development can be beneficial for sparking ideas and providing options.

But, it’s important that the individual’s vision for themselves be the primary driver behind the plan.

Here’s a great example: I will never forget at our 2017 Fierce Summit, Brian Canlis, special guest and OWNER OF CANLIS RESTAURANT, shared what he asks candidates during the interview process:

“How would being an employee at Canlis help you become the person you want to be?”

This question shifts the context of growth to where it becomes driven by the individual and their vision of who they want to become, rather than what they want to become. The who refers to the human being behind the work. And the answer is different for everyone.

How to Shift Your Growth Context

To some extent, integrating a self-driven approach will require organizations to REDEFINE WHAT GROWTH MEANS because it can be interpreted differently to others.

For example, growth isn’t always about promotions or gaining more knowledge in a particular area. Asking the question “who do you want to be?” is going to elicit a lot of varying responses.

A potential reality we need to keep in mind as leaders in the DEVELOPMENT CONVERSATION is that those we’re coaching may not know where they’re going or who they want to be. 

When encouraging them to plot their own growth, some employees will know exactly who they want to become, while some will only have a vague idea. And others won’t have a clue. 

Sample growth paths can be helpful in this area by providing a possible avenue. If employees don’t have a clue, sharing so different paths and explorations can be the biggest gift of all. 

As leaders, we need to meet employees where they are. Providing sample growth paths that increase skills and accountability over time is important. 

However, it is dangerous to assume that if individuals are provided with the right tools, that they will somehow follow specific paths. Exit interviews often reveal these types of disconnects. 

A great example is a conversation I had recently with a young executive leader at a Fortune 500 company. He shared with me that he felt he had been given every development opportunity and resource to get to the next level of his career. That’s great, right?

Enthusiastically, I asked him how he felt about it all. To my surprise, he told me that he wasn’t sure the level his company wants him to attain is what he actually desires. 

Worse yet, he said he feels his leaders aren’t responding to what he wants to build at the company, and instead he said they talk like “I owe them something” because an investment has been made in him. Woah. Talk about a disconnect. 

In plotting a course of growth, plans obviously need to be intentional or they will fail. However, sample growth plans run the risk of being too prescriptive if we become attached to them

People don’t know what they don’t know, so it’s important for organizations to walk the line of providing potential growth paths and being open to alternative paths that will naturally unfold when the individual is made an agent of their own growth. 

Overly-prescriptive pathing is also a hindrance for organizations that want to be more innovative — it doesn’t work for people, and it doesn’t work for business.

One way to encourage employees to be an agent of their own development is to have them look for areas of opportunity that will help organizations be more agile. Too often the people deciding what that path is for business aren’t as close to the front lines of the problems, and these people need to be seeking the perspectives of those who actually are. 

The front lines may be able to forecast job positions that aren’t needed now but may be needed in three to four years to come. Being aware of this potential need could provide additional growth options.

How Leaders Can Support a Self-Driven Path

Okay, so if I still have your attention, the natural progression is to ask: How do I shift the organizational mindset? I’d start with all people leaders. They need to be asking their teams:

“In what ways do you want to grow, and how can we fit that into the needs of the business?”

An important part of creating a growth plan is having a real, authentic conversation with yourself. Writing a stump speech is a great way to do this. Have your team members answer the following questions for themselves:

  • Where are you going?
  • Why are you going there?
  • Who is going with you?
  • How are you going to get there?

Keep in mind that not everyone will have an answer to these questions, and you must communicate upfront that it’s perfectly fine to not know. The main benefit of posing these questions is to ignite their thinking around growth and begin exploring possibilities together.

Whether an individual is certain or uncertain about the direction they want to go, having the right growth conversations will stimulate thinking and set their development on a positive trajectory.

One of the best ways to facilitate growth is to ask, “In what areas would you like to gain new responsibilities or grow your skills?” Then begin delegating new tasks in these areas. 

Skilful DELEGATION is, in essence, a growth conversation. With this approach, newly-assigned decision-making opportunities become exciting and can potentially create more clarity in an individual’s growth plan. 

It’s important for leaders to AVOID DELE-DUMPING, an ineffective delegation style where leaders assign tasks without consulting their team members. Dele-dumping often leads to stress instead of growth.

Another immediate way to support employees on their path of growth is to take an ongoing approach to FEEDBACK. When an employee is successful, acknowledge them right then and there so they can gain more awareness of the areas where they excel. 

When things aren’t going so well, explore what they are seeing so they have an early opportunity to respond and learn. If feedback conversations are saved for bi-annual or annual reviews, employees completely miss out on daily opportunities for growth.

A core idea that we need to carry with us and integrate into growth conversations is that our success relies on others. It benefits others when you let them know the potential you see in them, and it can give people ideas and help them see what they may not see. 

I know my personal growth is a direct result of all of the amazing people I have had the privilege to work within my career. I feel grateful for people seeing things in me and saying, “I think you would be great at XYZ.”

Although I’m accountable for my own growth, I’m inherently limited by my own perspective. I wouldn’t be where I am today IF IT WEREN’T FOR THE PERSPECTIVES OF OTHERS and their willingness to communicate what they saw in me.

Take your own growth into your hands, and help others do the same.

ViewPoint: Special Educational Needs Do Not End at 16
February 24, 2020
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By Clare Howard, Chief Executive, Natspec

The reforms to the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) system contained in the 2014 Children and Families Act were a once in a generation systemic change for young people and their families.

return to Natspec home page

For the first time, rights and duties were extended from the earliest years to young adulthood, in a new 0-25 system, giving Further Education colleges and providers new statutory obligations.

Post-16 Special Education Needs

The SEND reforms, combined with the raising of the participation age to the 18th birthday, mean that SEND provision does not end at 16. There are increasingly heavy demands on FE – the number of young people with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) aged 16 to 25 increased from 84,000 to 96,000 between 2018 and 2019.

Whether it is post-16 or post-18/19, the move into further education and training is arguably the least well-developed area of the SEND reforms.

16-18 Year Olds

At some stage between the ages of 16 to 19, these young people and their families will be considering their post-school options. That might be a college place possibly with an element of residential experience, a supported internship, an apprenticeship, or voluntary or paid work.

Leaving school and moving on to something new is both exciting and stressful for any young person, but it can be especially difficult for young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, many of whom find change very unsettling. This is further hindered by a funding system that is hard to navigate and lack of information about the full range of options available.

Moving to college (sometimes after 15+ years at the same special school) gives young people a real opportunity for a fresh start; it means making new friends, having new experiences, learning new skills, and experiencing and overcoming new challenges. For many young people it is the ideal stepping- stone from school into adult life.

Expectations for what can be achieved in this last – and shortest – phase of education are rightly set high. The impact of high-quality further education for learners with SEND can be enormous – for the young people themselves, for their families, and for wider society.

But currently there are a number of issues getting in the way. What are they – and how might we resolve them?

Education, Health and Care Plans

EHCPs should be well- constructed, based on realistic and personal aspirations, and contain aspirational and specific outcomes. Evidence collected by numerous reviews, the most recent being the Education Select Committee SEND Inquiry, demonstrates that the vast majority are not. Natspec has recommended that DfE introduce a new national EHCP template and better guidance for writing Plans. Timeliness of assessment and finalisation for plans is also an issue; for new EHCPs, SEN stats published by DfE in 2019 show that only 60% were issued within the statutory 20 week deadline in 2018.

Local Authorities

Local authorities are required to inform families with a full range of options and services on their Local Offer websites. With LAs unfamiliar with the FE landscape, and many being unwilling to fund places outside their own area, many colleges and training providers are not included within Local Offers.

An Ofsted thematic report in 2016 reviewed 20 Local Offer websites, and found 16 which “failed to provide sufficiently detailed information…”. This lack of information was a particular problem for those young people with more complex or profound learning difficulties or disabilities”. Natspec’s own research in 2019 found over half of Local Offers did not list specialist colleges as an option, and mainstream colleges were often hard to locate on websites.

Timeliness Decision Making

The proportion of post-school placements that are confirmed before the March 31 legal deadline each year is tiny.

Specialist colleges are reporting that less than 10% of places are confirmed by June, and many students are left in limbo (with all the increased anxiety that results) into August, September or even later. Natspec would like to see LAs working with all post-16 providers to look at supply and demand, develop strategic plans and work jointly across regional areas to account for FE travel patterns and specialist centres.

Quality Provision

All providers should offer a good range of learning opportunities for students with SEND to meet their needs and interests and build on their strengths. Colleges should have rigorous systems for assuring quality, especially if the learning programme is not accredited, and be providing support that prepares the young person to be increasingly independent, including through use of technology (Natspec’s TechAbility programme brings together the best examples of this).

High Aspirations

And finally, all post-16 and post-19 study programmes should have high aspirations and be based on outcomes.

What kind of adult does the young person want to become? What personalised programme of learning is needed to help them get there? The late teenage and early adult years are critical in determining levels of independence and success in adulthood. And the right education at this stage can save the public purse millions later in life.

Clare Howard, Chief Executive, Natspec