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Government praise for Cornwall Works WISE awards
The 2009 Cornwall Works WISE Awards - an annual celebration recognising excellence in employment and skills activity in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly - have been praised by a Government minister.
The awards ceremony itself is timed to fit as closely as possible to Europe Day (May 9th) to highlight the important role that the European Social Fund (at present through the ESF Convergence Programme) is playing in employment, skills and training and innovation across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Winners this year include a single mother of three, formerly unemployed, who is now a volunteer supporting workless people; a nationally acclaimed initiative to reduce poverty; a project to help those recovering from mental health problems by offering them work producing a magazine and a graduate who has helped a company grow by 350%.
Local Government Minister, Sadiq Khan, said: ''Every effort to help more people access the skills or jobs they need to realise their potential should be applauded. These awards do just that and shine an important spotlight on people across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly who make it their daily purpose to make a positive difference to their communities and businesses, with the help of European funding.”
The second Cornwall Works WISE awards ceremony - jointly organised by Jobcentre Plus, the Learning and Skills Council and the Convergence Partnership Office for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly - took place today (Friday May 8th) at the Watergate Bay Hotel. Keynote speaker was Sheelagh Keyse, national Director of Customer Services for Jobcentre Plus.
It was introduced by Carleen Kelemen, Director of the Convergence Partnership Office for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, who said: "These awards celebrate those who have already been successful and it is the individuals’ stories that bring inspiration to us all. ESF Convergence offers us a huge opportunity to encourage many more people to make changes in their lives and be supported into work and training.”
Carolyn Webster, European programmes manager for Jobcentre Plus, said: "There has never been a more important time to maintain a focus on helping people to gain the skills and competencies they need to go into work, to stay in work and to progress in work. Even though we are in an economic downturn more people are moving from benefits into work than at this time last year in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. We should be proud of the positive difference that the delivery of employment and skills activity makes - a difference that was clearly demonstrated today through the stories of the WISE award winners.”
Mark Williams, Skills Development Director for the Learning and Skills Council, said: "These awards demonstrate the breadth and depth of ESF investment in Cornwall and how customised support for individuals can make demonstrably significant contributions to both the lives of individuals and to the success of our businesses. The economic impact of these investments is considerable, producing a more flexible and highly skilled workforce capable of responding effectively to the changing dynamics of Cornwall’s economy. The individual examples demonstrated here today will motivate and inspire others to develop their skills and expertise, contributing to Cornwall’s future success.”
A special Lifetime Achievement Award was also awarded to Professor Keith Atkinson, a key player in the creation of the Combined Universities in Cornwall, who had been invited to the event to speak about how ESF can support innovation.
Cornwall Works is the over-arching strategy and co-ordinating brand for employment and skills activity in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The European Social Fund Convergence Programme investment for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has included Jobcentre Plus and Learning and Skills Council Co-financing programmes.
For further information:
Media Relations Manager for the Convergence Partnership Office
01872 223439 / 07973 813647
Welfare to Work
Individual Award - Debbie Durham
The individual welfare to work award is to recognise a person who has overcome significant barriers to employment or who helps others to do so. Debbie Durham is a Placement Support officer with Volunteer Cornwall (previously Cornwall Centre for Volunteers). Bringing up three children on her own Debbie has faced many challenges on her journey back into work.
Following the loss of her mother and break-up of her marriage, Debbie became a lone parent and her confidence and self esteem were at an all time low. In order to get out of the ever deepening rut that she found herself in Debbie started to attend her local Children's Centre, and quickly found herself making new friends and becoming actively involved as a volunteer. With her confidence starting to grow and a desire to do more for her local community Debbie became a volunteer with SHARE - supporting young people in crisis. This gave her the opportunity to study for and achieve an NVQ3 in information, advice and guidance
With her self esteem restored and confidence beginning to grow Debbie started to think about returning to work and went to Jobcentre Plus where she joined the New Deal for Lone Parents. Debbie chose to join the work experience in the voluntary sector option, delivered by Volunteer Cornwall. As Debbie was considering a career in advice and guidance, she undertook a work placement shadowing one of Volunteer Cornwall's placement support officers. Debbie shone in this role and when a vacancy arose at Volunteer Cornwall, Debbie applied and was short listed. A nervous but honest presentation of how she would do the job impressed the panel over more experienced candidates and Debbie started work in August 2008.
Debbie's own story gives her a real empathy with her clients. She has become a working success story in her own right and now manages a large caseload of workless people; occasionally glancing back to remind herself how far she has travelled.
Debbie was nominated by her colleagues at Volunteer Cornwall.
Group Award - Real Choices Programme
The group award in the welfare to work category goes to a programme that has made a big impact in Cornwall in a short space of time. The Real Choices programme is a Treasury funded Invest to Save programme to tackle child poverty in Cornwall and was key to the recent award of Beacon Status for reducing child poverty to Cornwall Council.
The "business case" to secure treasury investment was based on the economic return of supporting 60 workless families on health related benefits off those benefits and into sustainable work. This target has been achieved with 12 months to spare - and has changed the lives of those families. But Real Choices has also had a much wider impact and is well on the way to achieving its mission of making child poverty "everybody's business", in no small way due to the drive and passion of James Hardy who was appointed as Child Poverty Co-ordinator.
However, Real Choices is based on partnership. James is employed by Cornwall Council; he works across the children, young people and families directorate but is part of the Inclusion Cornwall team, hosted by Jobcentre Plus. The Steering Group for Real Choices is made up of representatives from Cornwall Council, Inclusion Cornwall, Jobcentre Plus, CAB, the voluntary sector forum and the primary care trust.
Delivery is based on the "Cornwall Works" principles of:
- a focus on prevention as well as inclusion
- building on rather than duplicating current resources
- changing behaviours and how organisations work together to support mutual customers
- where needed, piloting new approaches and mainstreaming them when successful.
This has led to some innovative multi-agency delivery, for example with the Cornwall Works hub and health professionals. James has worked with health colleagues to mainstream extended assessments for families where there is a new pregnancy to include issues relating to worklessness, debt and benefit take-up, with appropriate ongoing referrals made via the Cornwall Works hub. This model of working was the basis for a successful bid for a child poverty innovation pilot that will extend the multi-agency approach to other organisations, in particular housing support officers.
Real Choices has received much national acclaim and has developed key strategic links at national level to promote and further facilitate delivery in Cornwall, putting Cornwall on the national map. James is now part of a national group that provides policy advice to ministers and Real Choices goes from strength to strength making child poverty "everybody's business".
Individual Award - Rachel Jones from Fit ‘n' Fun Kids
The individual skills award recognises a person who has risen personally to the challenge of gaining new work related skills or who has helped others to do so. Rachel has achieved both.
She started her own business eight years ago and quickly recognised that in order to grow and sustain the business she needed to develop her management skills. She undertook a diploma in coaching and mentoring so that she could identify and support staff development needs and also a range of equality and diversity training to ensure there were no barriers to recruiting and training her team.
Her organisation - Fit ‘n' Fun Kids - has grown from one to 20 employees, with all staff qualified to at least NVQ level 3 - above the mandatory requirements for the business. However it does not stop there. Through the motivational leadership of this individual, backed up by a clear appraisal and personal development process that she developed, staff have been supported to achieve level 4 and 5 qualifications and foundation degrees.
This culture of learning has ensured the business has a highly motivated, highly skilled team that delivers what the business needs.
Group Award - The Advance Project (Pentreath)
The Advance Project specialises in supporting people who are recovering from mental ill health to gain new skills in a real work setting. Part of the delivery portfolio of Pentreath, a charity specialising in supporting people with mental ill health, Advance is part of the "Cornwall Works for Social Enterprise" programme, developed by Jobcentre Plus and led by Cornwall Council with investment from the DWP Convergence ESF co-financing programme.
Advance works in partnership with "Cornish World" magazine, with participants undertaking training and skills development as part of their work placements with the magazine. The skills and qualifications gained not only improve employability and job opportunities but also raise motivation, confidence and self esteem.
Advance has been running for eight months, supported by Eddi Beech, employment co-ordinator and participants have undertaken a range of vocational and employability skills training as well as skills for life and mental health awareness training. Participants contribute to the production of the Cornish World magazine in a variety of ways, applying work related skills and qualifications they have acquired in relation to journalism, graphic design, research, administration, sales, advertising and promotion.
The project has had success in supporting other areas of the Cornish World media umbrella including taking on design work, managing a web-based shop, IT and information management. Feedback from participants has been very positive and throughout the economic downturn participants have been actively applying for jobs thanks to increased motivation, confidence and the acquisition of new skills.
Individual Award - Phil Nelson
Phil joined Marbel through the Unlocking Cornish Potential programme. Unlocking Cornish Potential (UCP) is the Combined Universities in Cornwall's graduate placement scheme, supported through ESF Convergence investment. UCP matches talented graduates with progressive Cornish companies to fuel innovation, growth, creativity, competitiveness and economic prosperity in Cornwall and Scilly.
Marbel is a family run business that supplies and distributes wooden toys - bringing a range of quality, classic, traditional, innovative and educational toys to the UK market. Marbel's toys are safe, naturally made and environmentally friendly.
Phil's remit was a project focussed on raising brand awareness, increasing sales, developing relationships with and managing suppliers and working in the warehouse to increase warehouse and stock efficiency.
His work has involved designing stands and organising tradeshows, giving input on new products and developing the brand. He has brought together the marketing plan for Marbel and focussed the company's efforts on progression and development. He also looked at the company supply chain and was able to bring in new processes that streamlined the way the warehouse operated. As a result of his work, Marbel has grown by 350%, four new employees have been recruited and there has been a demonstrable increase in brand awareness.
Group Award - Creative Enterprise Cornwall
Creative Enterprise Cornwall is a really successful programme that has received ESF Convergence investment and places high level post-graduate students from University College Falmouth into Cornish businesses for up to 70 hours. The benefits for both students and businesses are many. Businesses enjoy the advantage of an individual bringing high level skills and often experience into a business on a short term, very specific project. Students get valuable work experience and the opportunity to develop new business skills alongside a taste of working in Cornwall and Scilly.
Creative Enterprise Cornwall is innovative in the range of approaches and flexibility it adopts to facilitate placements. Post graduates must complete between 35 and 70 hours with a business during their study, which some undertake in a two week block whilst others undertake one day a week over a 14 week period - providing flexibility for both students and businesses alike.
The project is run by the careers department at University College Falmouth and placements are co-ordinated by Zoe Mogridge, herself a post graduate student who benefited from the initiative and is now sharing the benefits of her experience with other students. Creative Enterprise Cornwall plays an important role in ensuring that students who chose to undertake their post-graduate education in Cornwall can share their specialist skills for the benefit of businesses in Cornwall and Scilly.
Employer Committed to Workforce Development - T J International
This north Cornwall company injects some £3.75million into the Cornish economy on an annual basis. The company management charter recognises that the only way business objectives can be achieved is to have a highly skilled and motivated workforce and a competent management team.
The Charter sets out the commitment and exactly what is done about business planning, team briefing, performance reviews, managerial capability, induction, training and investors in people. The company boasts almost 110 people with qualifications in excess of NVQ3 and the average wage of £27,500 exceeds the North Cornwall average.
Committed to the best possible use of skills and experience of staff, the company actively promote from within, creating new openings for redundant workers from declining industries. Staff retention is 95%.
Staff are encouraged to gain nationally recognised qualifications and 85% of NVQ trainees are still with the company. In conjunction with the South West manufacturing Advisory Service teams work on business improvements and lean manufacturing.
There is a Works Council which is the forum where employee representatives are consulted on decisions that may impact on them. The Council comprises twenty representatives trained in staff representation skills.
The environmental committee is made up of 12 representatives trained in representation skills and IOSH environmental management with two representatives qualified to NVQ4 in Environmental management. The committee operates without management involvement, sets annual targets and objectives and publishes a quarterly review.
Looking outwards, as part of a major initiative to encourage young people into the industry, the company twinned with local schools to deliver presentations and discussions on the benefits of working in the industry. Work experience opportunities are regularly offered in accounts, manufacturing, digital engineering and IT. On-site training facilities are available for groups to visit and share experiences. They have been used by a range of organisations from the Padstow Brownies to the Environment Agency.
Employer Committed to the Welfare to Work Agenda - Fifteen Cornwall
Fifteen Cornwall has continued to provide life changing opportunities for young people in Cornwall, many of whom need a second chance to prove themselves. The quality and range of support provided has always been excellent and has been continuously reviewed to ensure that quality is maintained. The individual outcomes for the young apprentices are fantastic as is the success story of the organisation itself.
Fifteen Cornwall is about to graduate its third cohort of chefs of the future and gearing up to recruit the fifth intake. Fifteen has not only proved itself in the delivery of employment and skills outcomes for young people but has a wider impact - on the tourist offer, on local supply chains, on raising knowledge and aspirations through the work it does with schools across the county, and on the outreach work it does in some of Cornwall's most disadvantaged communities.