Just before we had to lock down in response to Covid 19, the City Council’s ESL Team was awarded the Department for Education Matrix quality standard for information, advice and guidance (IAG). This was a fantastic result and a great achievement for the whole ESL team, worthy of a dedicated spotlight this week.
We need to remind ourselves that the smooth working of the local economy and skills system does not just rely on the availability of great education and training opportunities, it also requires high quality and independent IAG so that people can make sense of their career options and training pathways.
To achieve Matrix accreditation is no easy feat. An independent assessor spent two full days carrying out in-depth review of our application and evidence, including interviews and observation with staff, partners and users.
Delyse Taylor (Young Careers and Pathways Team Manager), supported very ably by Kirstie Mallet (Future Bright Team Leader), did a fantastic job leading a cross ESL working group to pull together a single careers strategy and to build up a strong portfolio of evidence. Through this process, four separate teams came together, sharing their extensive expertise and creating a shared offer which connects so well with the local communities we serve.
So what did the assessor find through his detailed investigation into our work? He identified and reported on many of our strengths, some listed here. I’m so very proud of every single person in ESL that has gone the extra mile to build such a responsive, high quality and valued service:
- The ESL Team has excellent leadership at strategic and operational level and has begun to establish itself as a ‘go to’ organisation for work with the most vulnerable people in the city;
- The effectiveness of responses to priorities in-year and the ability to adjust across the four service areas is exceptional, based upon the ability to commission provision quickly and the enthusiasm and expertise of the teams;
- In each service area there are activities that deliver innovatively and produce excellent results. For example, the Future Bright programme has already demonstrated how the focus on improving in-work income can change lives profoundly;
- WORKS is establishing very good practice in schools and helping them improve their own support and deliver activity around Gatsby Benchmarks more effectively;
- Employers using the On-Site apprenticeship brokerage service were full of praise for the On-Site team, citing the Open Evening (up to twenty construction firms attend) as beneficial for their application process and the subsequent IAG process. One employer — a FTSE 100 company ― had used On-Site for seventeen years and could easily make other arrangements but chose to use On-Site because of the team’s expertise;
- Community learning delivery in local venues has established trust and developed capacity and learners engage readily with tutors to explore career plans. A range of short courses aimed at the most vulnerable (such as the Roof Over Your Head project for the homeless) demonstrate reach and effectiveness of targeting.
The final report also includes recommendations for our future development too, including: linking with more sectors to build additional pathways for learners; sorting out pre-16 data issues; plugging business mentoring into the Future Bright service; developing additional targeted services for Disabled people and job seekers over 50; extending our work with employers through WORKS pledges; introduction of accreditation for Learning Ambassadors; securing closer joint working with the Council’s SEND team.
One recommendation in particular stands out at the end of the report:
‘Much of the excellent work carried out by the ESL team is not well known. Partners who were interviewed urged that the ESL team could promote its success more though social media for example. Case studies that demonstrate positive impact on individuals could appeal to target groups and provide evidence to potential funders. The current website arrangements through the City Council do not provide the opportunity to showcase achievements and individual stories in an exciting way and this could be explored further. There could be a much more heightened celebration of achievement, both by the team and clients/learners. (1.6)’
This is an important challenge, and the ESL marketing and communications team (that morphed out of our innovation team) is continuing to develop new ideas to capture user stories, utilise social media and celebrate success. Whilst it is a great shame we have had to postpone our annual celebration of success in July, the team are working out alternative ways we can celebrate success remotely – if you have bright ideas, we’d love to hear them!