Julie Graham, CEO of Ingeus' Employment Services, reflects on the success of this year's ERSA Employability Day.
In the seemingly endless stream of awareness days that pop up across print, broadcast and social media, it can be easy to dismiss the genuine merits of say, Marzipan Day or National Limerick Day. Whatever your liking for marzipan or a good-humoured tongue twister, awareness days actually serve a much more worthy purpose. From capturing important social issues to debilitating health conditions, awareness days educate and inform, celebrate and mourn and, very importantly, communicate new and insightful messages to people outside of those communities.
The employability sector is largely unknown. Yet there are thousands of organisations across the country transforming the lives of disadvantaged jobseekers and their communities every day. They may be employability providers like Ingeus or the myriad partners we work with, including health specialists, housing associations, training providers, local authorities, employers, and more. Employability Day is our collective celebration of what we – and the people we support – achieve.
Together, we are enabling better lives by working for better work, and for me, it’s a vocation. I’ve worked in the employability sector for more than 25 years and when I relocated to the UK from Australia in 2021, I was immediately drawn to the work of ERSA – the Employment Related Services Association. Ingeus is a founding member of ERSA and I was personally delighted to join the ERSA Board in 2022. It is great that ERSA spearheads Employability Day as a focal point of our year.
The work ERSA members have done over the past decade has kept long-term unemployment down and supported millions of people to overcome barriers to employment. However, the labour market never rests easy… a record 2.53 million people are currently out of work due to long-term ill health; there are currently over a million young people not in education or employment; and the disability employment gap is at its widest point since 2018. The inclusive and innovative employment support that our sector provides is more relevant and important than ever and will remain a vital bridge between jobseekers’ and employers’ needs.
This year, like every year, we continue to do more and the energy, excitement and collaboration in celebrating Employability Day has been infectious. Our teams were hard at work up and down the country running special events for the day, including money management sessions, job fairs, workwear stations, and VIP visits. All with the key focus in mind, our participants.
We also held LinkedIn Live events with our partners to help more businesses learn how to create a diverse and inclusive workforce. If you didn’t get a chance to watch them. You can still check them out on LinkedIn and see how OCS are getting on with their innovative new ‘People into Work Programme.’
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As Employability Day progressed it was heartening in my position as an ERSA Board member to see so many others organisations embrace the day.
Many, like Ingeus, harnessed social media to host online events, like Leeds Mind’s WorkPlace session giving expert advice on supporting specific cohorts of people into work. I was particularly drawn to AND Digital’s initiative ‘AND She Can’ event, snappily titled Great Minds think Unalike, which explored different routes into the digital industry for jobseekers. Having just piloted a similar scheme in London, it was great to share the experiences of other expert speakers.
Many MPs were also out in force and Working for Better Work events gave all-important support to jobseekers.
The day was a showcase for our varied, dynamic and innovative sector, and long may it continue!
I’m drawn to Abraham Lincoln’s quote, ‘the best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time’. For many of the people on our programmes, they are building a new future with our help, one day at a time. It’s what we do daily, not just on Employability Day.