“Winning an award is always good for the spirits, and when it’s an award which recognises the value and impact of our employability work, well that makes it all the more special. Last week, my colleague Luke and I went along to the ERSA Awards evening expecting to meet interesting people and do lots of clapping, but certainly not expecting to take home a trophy. ERSA stands for Employment Related Services Association, and it’s a membership body for organisations working in employability.  We enjoy being part of their network, as it includes a wide variety of organisations with which we can share learning and ideas, ranging from large private and third sector companies which deliver multi-million pound contracts for government to small local community organisations.

We were delighted that several organisations working with people who have experienced homelessness were winners on the night.  Adrian Bailey from Prisoners Abroad won the Adviser of the Year award.  We know Adrian well, and have a great relationship with Prisoners Abroad who do fantastic work supporting UK nationals who are deported back to the UK following imprisonment overseas.  They have referred their clients onto our employment programme since we set up over three years ago, the majority of whom have gone on to secure paid work.  We also clapped extra hard for Karla Gardner who won the Significant Achiever of the Year award.

Karla was put forward for the award by her support organisation, Working Chance, which supports women with histories of offending into work, and is also one of our valued Employment Academy referral partners.  This award was for a job-seeker who has demonstrated exceptional commitment to overcoming barriers to enter and maintain work.

Our award for employability innovation was, as I said, unexpected, and all the more exciting for it.  We certainly enjoyed the evening; getting up on stage to receive the award, posing for photos, meeting the BBC broadcaster Kirsty Lang who was MC-ing the event as well as Penny Mordaunt MP, Minister for Disability, Health and Work who I am happy to say will be visiting HoSB before too long to see what all the fuss is about.  With the sparkle of the evening behind us, we are left with an employability award (hooray!) which sits in the club reception (looking rather fine) from 2017 (always good to be current) and is a great boost to our wonderful team of programme participants, graduates, mentors and staff from across the organisation including the Benugo club team as well as those of us working for the charity.  We all play our part to create the magic, and if innovation means doing something imaginatively to get great results, I do believe we fit the bill – if I say so myself!”

-Ceri Sheppard, Employment Academy Director, House of St Barnabas