The winners of the ERSA Employability Awards, sponsored by Shaw Trust, were announced last night in a ceremony attended by over 200 guests, including the Employment Minister and Shadow Employment Minister. 

The awards, now in their second year, are intended to spotlight the great practice taking place in the employment support sector, particularly in helping the long term unemployed find work.   In addition to showcasing the best in class, the awards also provide an opportunity to pay tribute to the efforts of frontline staff, employers and jobseekers themselves in transforming lives. 

Over 180 entries were narrowed down to just eleven outstanding winners by the judges, Matt Thurston from the Department for Work and Pensions, Michael Buchanan from the BBC and Richard Harries from the thinktank, Reform.

The ceremony, which included a drinks reception sponsored by Specialist Recruitment Partners, with a programme sponsored by Kennedy Scott, was hosted by Baroness Stedman Scott, chief executive of Tomorrow’s People.

Kirsty McHugh, ERSA, Chief Executive, said:

‘The ERSA awards are the perfect opportunity to thank the unsung heroes of welfare to work.  Helping jobseekers back into work isn’t always easy – there needs to be a strong partnership between frontline staff, employers and jobseekers themselves.  All tonight’s winners are inspirational, but they are also a reflection of the wider positive work of the sector and jobseekers themselves.’

The full list of 2014 winners are as follows:

Supply Chain Partner of the Year Award (sponsored by A4e)
Winner: Wheatsheaf Trust

Registered charity Wheatsheaf Trust has been working with A4E as a subcontracted provider of employment services since 2009 and has gone above and beyond its contractual obligations to help thousands who were facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles and often painful struggles. The Trust specialises in supporting disaffected young people, minority ethnic and faith groups, people with disabilities, lone parents, older people and returners to the labour market and refugees.

The IEP Professionalisation Award (sponsored by the Institute of Employability Professionals)
Winner: Remploy

Remploy’s commitment to staff development and the professionalism of the sector is demonstrated in many ways. It has successfully developed a disability guide and different programmes to up-skill its employees in effectively working with people with disabilities. Remploy has also recognised employee’s achievements by giving them a one year’s associate membership with the IEP when they complete various qualifications.

The Innovation Award (sponsored by PublicCo)
Winner: Pluss Future Clean

Pluss Future Clean® is a social franchise that provides employment opportunities for people traditionally seen furthest from the labour market. The opportunities are delivered via a commercial business based on an
environmentally friendly car valeting service. Its expansion across the country, within 13 local authority areas to date, is the result of the unlikely public/private/third sector partnership between Pluss and other major welfare to work providers.

Large Employment of the Year Award (sponsored by Pluss)
Winner: Greggs PLC

Gregg’s work inclusion programme compromises of three initiatives. The first initiative called ‘Ready to Work’ has been developed in conjunction with the prisons and probation trusts, this particular programme provides both offenders and ex-offenders with assessment and interview experience. ‘A Taste of Greggs’ has been developed in partnership with Jobcentre Plus. This programme offers both work experience placement and employment to young people. Finally Greggs also runs an initiative through the Work Programme. This work is shaped for Greggs by various employment support providers, it helps to support the longer term unemployed through the provision of work experience and paid employment when possible.

Small or Medium Employer of the Year Award (sponsored by The Wise Group)
Winner: Horizon Finance

The majority of contact centre businesses require staff to have relevant experience before their CV is even considered. Not Horizon. Horizon base a great deal of its decision on who to employ on the candidate’s character, their enthusiasm and the potential they see. Opportunities are given to candidates with no relevant experience and in some cases with no work experience at all. Training and development is ongoing with qualifications offered during on-the-job training and staff earmarked for potential management roles.

Youth Employment Award (sponsored by ABC Awards)
Winner: Pertemps People Development Group

Giving young people the life skills to progress has been one of the core activities of Pertemps for the past 15 years. Its teams work across the UK with a diverse range of young adults including: NEET’s, those with little academic achievement, offenders, those who have disengaged from education and society in general.
The key to success is in the delivery of services that provide an accurate and realistic introduction to the world of work, traineeships, education, training and apprenticeships. Pertemps provide this from initial engagement through confidence and motivation, teaching employability as well as skills to delivering a post-employment after care service.

Disability Employment Award (sponsored by Ingeus)
Winner: Elite Supported Employment Agency Ltd

Established in 1994, Elite Supported Employment Agency Ltd is a registered charity operating supported employment services to people with disabilities, health conditions and those at a disadvantage across South and West Wales. Its vision is to enable their client group (ages 14-65) to gain vocational experiences and/or paid employment opportunities. Their mission is to enable the people they work with to access, obtain and maintain paid employment via appropriate support.

Advisor of the Year Award (sponsored by Alderwood)
Winner: Sam Price

Sam Price has dedicated the last 23 years of his career to welfare to work. Over that time he has helped an estimated 4,000 unemployed jobseekers to become self-employed by starting their own business in sectors as diverse as consultancy, construction, hospitality, retail, entertainment, cleaning, digital, creative, hair and beauty and many more.  Sam’s success rate has not been beaten: he was the first Enterprise Advisor in Avanta to reach 400 businesses set up under the Work Programme, holds the highest average of businesses started each month and can proudly say that 90% of the businesses he has helped to create are still trading.

Significant Achievement Award (sponsored by Duality Training)
Winner: Rory

It is eight times harder for someone with a criminal record to find a job, so Rory’s achievement – setting up as a self-employed barber within four months of his release from prison- is all the more remarkable. After spending seven years of the last decade in jail, the 29-year-old was determined to change his life for the better. Rory is now working towards mentoring other offenders to ensure they are given the best chance to turn their lives around too.

Lifetime Achievement Award (sponsored by Seetec):
Joint Winner: Jonathan Cheshire, The Wheatsheaf Trust

Jonathan is an enthusiastic and highly committed exponent of social inclusion, lifelong learning, and economic development, with extensive experience of managing skills and employability projects. Before starting the Trust, he founded Portsmouth Foyer (1996-1998), a housing and employment project for young people. Prior to this he has founded a number of other charities for homeless people in London, which were responsible for many new ideas in housing management and funding. He has been appointed to various government committees on homelessness, rehabilitation of offenders, and marine safety.

Joint Winner: Gareth Matthews, Serco
Gareth started his career with Jobcentre Plus, holding several senior roles during 27 years’ service and is now Serco’s Business Director for Welfare Services. Gareth’s wealth of knowledge and long-term commitment to the sector is without doubt worthy of the accolade for a lifetime achievement award. At the heart of everything he is involved in, he always has his customers in mind, and the positive impact this particular sector can have on individuals, their families and communities. 


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Notes to Editors

1. The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) is the sector body for organisations delivering or with an interest in employment related services – sometimes called welfare to work. 
2. ERSA members span the private, voluntary and public sector, including a diverse range of organisations from small specialist charities operating in their local communities to housing associations and local councils.
3. The ERSA Employability Awards were inaugurated in 2013. The Awards are open to member and non-members of ERSA, across the spectrum of employment support.