The change makers

18 Sep 2023
Julie Graham, CEO of Ingeus’s employment services, knows a thing or two about in-work support. Learning roles to support working people with learning disabilities, she mastered panel beating, waitressing, warehousing and poultry farming back in the mid-90s as an adviser in Australia. She may have moved roles – and continents – since, but her respect for that frontline support is undiminished. In her latest blog, she shares the highs, and hiccups, of helping people into work.      

We employ more than 1,500 frontline staff at Ingeus and they are, put simply, the most important members of our team. The critical work they do on a day-to-day basis, with a raft of colleagues supporting in the background, is what Ingeus is all about – Enabling Better Lives. 

To me, a frontline role is anyone who directly offers support to people on our programmes. Across our divisions, that includes employment advisors, health and wellbeing specialists, finance, debt and housing experts, and youth workers. Every day will be different, working with people needing differing levels and types of support. It’s what I enjoyed so much about my early career as an advisor; the variety of people I met with different outlooks and cultures; employers and their workplaces; and ultimately changing people’s lives. 
It’s why we all do it.

Yet people don’t go through education thinking they’ll work one day in employment services. Unless you’ve needed this type of support, it’s unlikely you’ll even know the sector exists. So, typically, we find that people join us in frontline roles from other sectors, and then grow with us. My management team all began in frontline positions and understand the rewards, and challenges, that go hand in hand with helping people. We accept the vagaries of working with someone, really investing in them, only for a life curve ball to knock them off track again. It can be disappointing, you certainly need to be resilient, to believe in everyone, and never give up. When we do that, the results are literally life changing.

I’ll always remember one of the first people I helped as an advisor. His life had spiralled out of control with alcohol and other issues, and he’d lost his family from it. With my help, he got a job in shipbuilding. Job done. It was about five years later though that I really understood the impact of that help. He looked me up – bought me flowers – and said he and his reunited family had a new home and new jobs to move to in another state. He was so grateful and told me I’d changed his life. You can’t ask your job for much more than that.

So, we can talk about the thousands of people Ingeus and other providers help into work. We can acknowledge boosts to the UK’s productivity as a result. We can actively address the country’s labour market shortages. All vitally important, but the ripple effect is even more immense. The positive effects of the economic and social inclusion that work gives to people is immeasurable. That’s the impact our teams have, and we may not always even know it.

This is why I was so passionate about collaborating with the Institute of Employability Professionals (IEP) on their basecamp for frontline employability professionals on the 5th October in Birmingham. I think this is the perfect opportunity for colleagues to collaborate, share best practice, and develop their skills. It can only have a beneficial impact on the work of our sector and Ingeus was delighted to applaud everyone’s good work by sponsoring free places for all to attend. It’s our thank you to all of the frontline professionals attending.  

The agenda promises practical information and advice to help stay up to date with the latest trends, and actionable insights to deliver better outcomes for participants. As an IEP Fellow myself, I wholeheartedly support the upskilling of workers in our sector, and I can’t wait to go along. There’s a saying that ‘everyone you meet knows something you don’t’ and I’m looking forward to hearing some fresh ideas on how we work smarter to help even more people into work.

We don’t sell a widget, a tangible product, here at Ingeus. Our creative and dedicated frontline advisors are what we do, it’s them that make all the difference.

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