A day to remember

13 Oct 2023
Travelling to the Institute of Employability Professional’s inaugural Basecamp in Birmingham, I was struck by the ‘basecamp’ analogy… 

An essential and welcoming hub for climbers from which to ascend. A place to acclimatise, organise and plan; to engage with your fellow travellers; to gain motivation and encouragement. 

My day with frontline colleagues promised a taste of all this, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. 

As a sector of employability professionals, it does sometimes feel like we have a mountain to climb, under difficult conditions and with a changeable climate. 

Record numbers of people are off work with health conditions, many not actively seeking to return, while vacancies remain stubbornly high. Tumultuous economic and political upheaval persists, while as workers ourselves, we grapple with post-Covid workplace changes and the ever-evolving new-normal.

Yet what I sensed at Basecamp, attended by frontline practitioners from across the UK, was a genuine sense of camaraderie. For many attendees, it was the first time they’d had an opportunity to speak to peers from other organisations about the day-to-day challenges they face – and how to overcome them. There was a heartening willingness to share insights and expertise. 

A common theme from the day was the joined-up approach we must foster to not only support our programmes’ participants, but our frontline staff, and this event was a great example of coming together to do just that. I am proud that Ingeus took the opportunity to sponsor the event and connect so many colleagues.

The day proved itself to be no one-hit wonder and, while I continue to digest many of the thought-provoking discussions, Basecamp drove home three stand-out insights…

Support needs evolve – and so must our delivery

Gitin Chavda, our Restart Scheme Regional Director opened the IEP Basecamp, and spoke of our participants’ changing needs such as the heightened cost of living driving the need for higher paid jobs, and labour market changes increasing the call for new and transferable skills.

Combine this with the catastrophic impact of Covid on our nation’s physical and mental health and we’re looking at the requirement for higher levels of support pretty much across the board. Basecamp experts outlined strategies for supporting people with complex needs and practical techniques to engender trust and engagement.

My Ingeus colleagues specifically commended the talks on active listening and motivational interviewing as ways to genuinely deep dive with participants. We talked at length about validating participants’ concerns and resisting the fixing reflex – the urge to tell people how they should change. This I think is key to reducing disengagement from programmes, which is a big challenge for our industry.

Supporting people in less task-orientated ways also fascinates me. While the practical and immediate aspects of job hunting are the important staples of many frontline advisors’ roles, that holy grail of holistic support sits at the summit of our metaphorical mountain. Empowering individuals to grow and adapt in an ever-changing jobs market means looking at personal growth, skills development, progression, and career longevity and demands new thinking in the way services are commissioned and delivered.

We can’t do this alone

The basic premise that jobseekers need jobs is not as straightforward as it sounds. 

Job design, to accommodate people returning to or entering work for the first time, is critical to successful recruitment. Helping employers develop their willingness and adapt for a wider range of employee needs is something we champion here at Ingeus but there is still much to be done in terms of detuning employers to unconscious bias; reducing the stigma and stereotypes that often engulf a potentially valuable new employee.
We need to open opportunities for participants with disabilities and health conditions; criminal convictions; limited or no work experience; parents; and older workers. Frontline advisors can equip them with the tools they need to sustain work, but employers, skills providers, and commissioners have a huge role to play in preparing the middle-ground.

Our frontline comes first

I was delighted to see Basecamp commence with a session on self-care. One of my team said the mental wellbeing activity was their top learning point and is something they intend to repeat daily. But so often, we don’t prioritise our own wellbeing.

Employability professionals have an innate empathy and compassion. Burning themselves up to give others light is a danger.

We employ in the region of 1,500 frontline staff and understand that being their best selves are what makes them a formidable force for good. We have built comprehensive employee assistance frameworks and wellbeing resources for Ingeus colleagues but what more could we offer? This is a takeaway I will be voicing loudly when back to the day-job. 

I hope everyone attending the IEP Basecamp gathered new thoughts to make meaningful changes to the way they work. I’m sure everybody got something different from the day and I thank the IEP for such insightful presentations, workshops, and discussions. 

Together, we were able to shine a light on better ways of working as we embark on our sector’s climb of its very own Mount Everest: good work for everyone.

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