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Inward Investment – who is really benefiting?

Working across the East Midlands I get the opportunity to work within a number of different public sector governing organisations, supporting inward investment. With the emerging trend of marketing towns and cities, everyone wants businesses and people to settle in their area. Great, if you win the business there are meant to be all sorts of benefits, but are they truly helping the local population grow and thrive or is the inequality gap widening further?

Business engagement is difficult. Understanding the area’s strengths and the support businesses need is paramount to achieving this. So what does successfull business engagement look like in reality? Many Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) have localised, business support units. Short term unemployment has dropped in many areas and with growth funding from Europe, infrastructure development is also progressing. But long-term unemployment, much to everyone’s frustration doesn’t seem to be budging.

Local Authorities are trying, where possible, to encourage inward investment through business engagement, to create local job opportunities. They are doing this through the creation and application of employment and skills plans. They focus primarily on entry-level jobs and training opportunities such as traineeships and apprenticeships. We are yet to see the benefits of these new initiatives. Whilst this is a great idea, it currently only applies to building and construction projects. When businesses look to open new offices or storeson existing premises, Local Authorities don’t set any conditions such as targetting recruitment on long-term unemployed people.

A lot of businesses now are also using zero hours contracts to create flexibility in their workforce. Allowing businesses to call on staff as and when there is a need, creating fluidity to business demand. On the flip side this creates uncertainty and stress for workers as they have no steady stream of income. Consequently individuals get in to debt or stagnate spending, neither of which is  good for the local economy. Whilst universal credit is taking steps to support workers holding this type of contract, we are yet to see the full impact.

Many of individuals claiming financial support are categorised by the government depending on the reason they require the support. A number of support programmes have been commissioned to support those seeking support in to or closer to the job market. However as the institutions delivering the support have little involvement with private sector employers it is questionable whether the support they are receiving is doing what is intended.  For employers it is irrelevant why people are receiving financial support, they just want to ensure that the people they employ can do the job. Many large employers have their own systems in place to identify and support future employees. These include apprenticeships and graduate programmes. However these organisations only account for 2% of the total UK business population.

So it seems there is a need to encourage local business to employ local people, discourage or even abolish zero hours contracts and plug the communication gap. The question is how do we do this? Enable holds the contract for Northamptonshire Talent Match. This programme offers one to one support for young people aged 18-24. The support is bespoke to the individual and targets are flexible. The idea being people are put first, at the centre of the support provided. Enable’s employer engagement officer has a constant and effective dialouge with employers.

Talent Match is a hugely effective project that has changed many young people’s lives. Whilst it may not be practical to roll out on a national scale, under the same premise as the Talent Match programme, intensive support to particular towns and cities with high long term unemployment levels may not be such a huge challenge.

Whilst I am aware it may be a time intensive and costly project to roll out nationally, in the long-term it has the potential to become cost effective and overall reduce long-term unemployment significantly. Isn’t it time to break the cycle, include employers and learn from our mistakes?

Understanding Your Own Organisation – The importance of strategic planning

Over the past few weeks I have spent a lot of time with other organisations, either to explore partnership working or to support them in their work. Something I have found essential for this process to be effective is understanding and communicating succinctly what the organisation does and where it is going. You may think this is common sense, but I think it is something that needs reiterating once in a while, for those who may have veered off-track a little. All of this information should be available in the organisation’s strategic plan.

Within my previous roles I have taken the presence of a strategic plan for granted; it seemed to have little relevance to my day-to-day role. As Business Development Manager, my role now revolves around organisational planning, from perfecting my pitches to potential partners, to understanding and implementing where the organisation is going in the medium and long-term. Third sector organisations with ‘tight’ strategic plans are considerably more robust than those without. Plans needs to be straightforward and relevant. Employees and volunteers should then able to work to deliver these creating direction and purpose for the organisation.

An effective strategic plan will encompass every area of the organisation and be relevant to every employee’s day-to-day role. This is communicated to the public as, what has been dubbed by bigger private sector organisations a ‘Mission Statement’. This is an overarching summary of what the organisation wants to achieve. This is then broken-down into aims and then into objectives. Each of these should be SMART, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely, to all areas of the organisation. Monitoring the achievement of these aims and objectives varies somewhat depending on the organisation.

Most organisations monitor the achievements of their aims and objectives through data analysis. For example, using a number of different data sources to collate unemployment and business survival data to monitor work. Other places such as community centres monitor attendance rates on courses and feedback forms to measure the impact of their work. The data you collate can then be evaluated against your aims and objectives to ensure the organisation is heading in the right direction. This data can also be used when applying for funding and demonstrating the impact of your organisation.

Having access to organisational data frequently offers employees and volunteers an insight into how the organisation is performing and the positive impact being made. It allows organisations to work more effectively together. It also means you are able to be ‘tender ready’ should a funding opportunity present itself, relevant to the organisational aims.

Conclusion – Organisations are more successful when they have a clear directive and are able to evidence their need and purpose.

Connectivity

I should probably introduce myself, my name is Rebecca and I have recently been appointed to the position of Business Development Manager for Enable. My role looks at the development of Enable as a whole and more specifically the development of our Apprenticeship provision. Before this I worked in the Economic Development Team at Gedling Borough Council. I studied Economics, Politics and International Relations at University and have a want to help individuals fulfil their potential.

So, I am coming to the end of my second month here at Enable and a noticeable trend in the work I have been doing seems to be the importance of taking a ‘joined up’ approach with our work in communities. I have worked closely with both public and third sector organisations, and it seems whilst we have the same aims we may not always be aware of referral routes to facilitate development. There are however ways and means of encouraging this.

Having not had much exposure to voluntary and community organisations, it really is positive to see just how many organisations there are all wanting to help and support people. Looking through Enable’s membership there are over 500 organisations across the region that support their local community in some way, no wonder it’s difficult to keep track! I recently had a meeting with one of our member organisations who support care leavers. We discovered that there were a number of ways Enable and our members can support them to do their work. So it’s not an impossible task.

Changes are being made in a number of other areas to support the initiative of a more joined up approach. Ofsted guidelines are now reflecting the importance of tracking to ensure learners are not disappearing off the radar. The D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership has local priority development areas to better understand where the support is needed. This, as always, is taking time to filter down in to the delivery of support.

Whilst it is important that we use a joined up approach we so often compete for funding to support current or new projects that this can be difficult. It isn’t however, impossible; with the ability to sub-contract support and work with project delivery partners there are many ways organisations can work better together in support of the end user. The ability to do this has the potential to offer better, more specialist support in a more concentrated location.

This where Enable, and our membership come in. I hope in my role as business development manager I can support our members and non-members to work collectively and use their specialism to better support individuals and communities. The people and communities we strive to help through the voluntary and community sector deserve the best service we can give them, which means working effectively together to deliver this.