The ERSA Employability Awards 2014 took place on Monday and were a much needed opportunity to celebrate the work of the sector. The event was attended by over 200 people including the Minister for Employment and Shadow Minister for Employment.

Esther McVey, MP, Minster for Employment, said:

“I was delighted to be a part of this wonderful evening. Many congratulations to the award winners and shortlisted candidates. I was pleased to see the commitment and professionalism of front-line staff and providers acknowledged. Clearly, the welfare to work industry has been working hard to support long-term claimants into sustained work. Long term unemployment is falling and the long term claimant is down over 93,000 in the last year – the largest annual fall since 1998.”

Stephen Timms, MP, Shadow Minister for Employment, said:

“I was impressed by the buzz around the hall and the great attendance at the awards.  It was an excellent evening, full of well-deserved celebration of impressive achievements.” 

Over two million people in the UK are receiving some aspect of employment support in the UK, yet many people are unaware of what the sector does, or that it even exists.

The fact is that some people need a bit of help to find work. They might not need much help, it could be that they just need someone to help them with their CV and talk to them about interview techniques but others will need more support. Some people need help to deal with multiple issues that can make finding a job seem impossible, such as poor mental health, a lack of confidence or temporary housing, the list can go on. 

The employment support sector is there to help meet these needs. This is not done in isolation. The sector  works closely with employers who are committed to making a positive difference to the local community and will often invest significant time and money into ensuring that they are employing long term unemployed people or those who have particular barriers to employment.

However, none of this would make a difference, were it not for jobseekers themselves working so hard to find and retain employment. The most important award of the evening was therefore the significant achievement award, which recognises a specific jobseeker who has demonstrated exceptional commitment to overcoming barriers to enter and maintain work. This year’s winner was Rory, who at 29, has spent over a third of his life in prison. It is eight times harder for someone with a criminal record to find employment, however, within four months of leaving prison, Rory had set up as a self-employed barber and is now working towards helping other offenders to ensure they are given the best chance to change their lives.

After receiving his award and meeting the Employment Minister, Rory said:

“I am in total shock. When you leave prison you think everyone will be down on you and sometimes it’s hard to see that you are making progress.

“This has made me even more hungry to help other offenders. It showed me that people are willing to give you a second chance and recognise the hard work people like me have to put in to turn their lives around.”