Original post via FE News here. 

In the run up to National Employability Day, Colin Geering, Group Business Development Director for Novus and ERSA Board Member, discusses the impact of employment focussed training on reducing reoffending

Like many organisations Novus and the wider LTE Group will be marking National Employability Day on 17 June 2022.

We do this because helping our learners gain the skills they need to move into rewarding careers is our social purpose. The “E” of LTE Group stands for Employment, the logical progression from the “L” and “T” (Learning and Training).

Colin Geering - NovusThis purpose has also been the heartbeat of my entire career. My first graduate job was helping ex-offenders to secure employment. I have since spent the subsequent decades working across the employability sector. I have delivered large back-to-work programmes; designed and developed new employability services; and have worked in employment and skills policy and commissioning in central and local government. Ultimately it is my conviction that employability underpins everything we want to achieve as Colleges, Training and Welfare to Work providers.

As such, Employability Day is our opportunity to shout about the importance of this underlying goal and the impact we are all having. And this year especially we should all recognise that our work has never been more vital.

When the going gets tough, employability comes into its own

If, like me, you have looked on in dismay as your energy smart meter skyrockets or bemoaned the increasing cost of filling up your car with fuel; I am sure you have also thought about those facing significant disadvantage and poverty. The people choosing between eating and heating. And I am sure you will also have thought about those people who need our services the most to help them achieve their full potential. Whether that be an unemployed lone parent taking a college course or a prison leaver determined to use the skills we have given them to turn their lives around, doing our upmost to make sure our learners and participants find good jobs has never been more important.

Simultaneously Covid-19 and Brexit have changed the labour market, creating new areas of demand pressure and skill shortages. The reduction in EU workers is also forcing firms to consider new talent pools.

Taking these challenges together gives us an opportunity we cannot afford to miss. It is vital that we (learning providers) continue to deliver the vocational skills our employers are crying out for, but we also need to double-down on embedding and championing employability support.

Embedding employability as a golden thread

Encouragingly and sensibly in my view, employability provision, traditionally the preserve of DWP and ESFA contracts is now moving across Government, via the future UK Shared Prosperity Fund as one example. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is also making employability central to their future Prison Strategy. Embedding this golden thread of employability at every possible touchpoint with people who, for whatever reason, didn’t engage with education at the first attempt, is something that we welcome wholeheartedly.

On behalf of the MoJ, Novus works with 50+ Prisons/Young Offender Institutions across England and Wales providing support to 60,000 individuals each year. We work in partnership with local and national employers to provide employment upon release for our learners. Recently we piloted integrating CIAG, Education and Employment Support/Brokerage into our Education services across Yorkshire and the Humber Prisons. The results of this are definitely something to shout about, with our learners in the pilot area experiencing around a three times higher rate of moving into work on release. With rates of ex-prisoners in work six-month post release as low as 14% in some areas, this level of increase is significant and – we believe – scalable.

This result is a credit to our frontline staff, the governors who invested in this model (even before the White Paper) and to our employer partners. For our individual learners it is literally life changing and the true impact is one we can all be proud of.

A safer more prosperous society

Reoffending costs the taxpayer £18bn each year on top of the immeasurable impact of trauma which the victims of crime experience. For a former prisoner, getting a job is not only going to save the Exchequer benefit payments, it is also one of the main factors which will help prevent them from reoffending.

So, on this Employability Day I would like us to recognise that the lives we change goes beyond our learners, programme participants and their families. Our work is fundamental to a prosperous, safer and more equitable future for our society. And that is something we can all celebrate.

By Colin Geering, Group Business Development Director for Novus