Growing Talent 22 starts – remarkable!

What’s remarkable? Lots of things – depending on who you ask!


For employers it’s likely the fact they recruit in a free, no risk way.  Selecting from a pre-screened pool of talent, employers don’t select those who can do the roles but those who have the ability to grow into their roles.  This is key.  The six week journey of Growing Talent enables both parties to be confident the match is right before the point of hire saving time and money.


For participants it’s likely the fact there is a permanent provisional job upfront – the prize they secure on successful completion.  They don’t have to rely on  trying to ‘sell’ their skills and potential through a cv to secure an interview nor explain gaps in skills, qualification, self-confidence if they manage to secure that elusive interview.


For JobCentre Plus (JCP) – it’s the fact their customers go into permanent jobs and learn skills to stay employed thereby not returning to benefits.  In addition, many of their customers not selected by an employer for a permanent role, learn from feedback given to enhance their future employment approaches.  While I quote 148 into permanent jobs – JCP will say the figure is much hire – which is great to hear!


For Care Leavers’ Organisations – employment is the critical key  to leaving care confidently.  Having a steady income enables everyone to make choices in their lives.  It gives us all control.  It isn’t enough to have somewhere safe to live without the means to pay the rent!


For me – it’s the fact a programme I designed, wrote and delivered is still being funded by a global financial services and is now on it’s 22nd programme!  I never expected this and shows the critical key of never doubting yourself – if you do, you’ll talk yourself out of doing anything!  If you keep going, you will find solutions for problems as they arise.  I also find it remarkable how difficult it is to get this unique, free tool to employers and those looking for work.


Seth Godin – talks about the Purple Cow.  When we have so much choice and so little time, we often don’t see what’s there unless it’s remarkable.  Cost & risk free recruitment without any catch is remarkable and still doesn’t get ‘word of mouth spread’  What are your thoughts on spreading the word?





Don’t let the bad eclipse the good!

How easy it is to let small things/one person detract us from what’s really important.


Since 2004 I have worked in dedicated employability programmes encouraging and supporting those unemployed people with ‘labels’ into employment and getting employers to think a different way when it comes to recruitment.


When you have a ‘label’ you will be stereotyped by perceptions of others – especially employers the majority of the time.  Homeless, care leavers, domestic abuse, mental/physical/social issues to some conjure up perceptions of what that person is capable of, how much ‘hassle’ it could be to employ them.  Now I know only too well we have legislation in place to stop this stereotyping but it doesn’t work.  Humans will always prejudge someone on their assumptions/perceptions of them not the evidence of what they can do and the value they add to a role.


It’s a fact, those of us with ‘labels’ need a different route to employment than the traditional cv/interview/start.  In 2004 I devised the Real Apprentice which ran until 2013 getting 378 people into permanent jobs – even though it was an eight week work experience programme!  I still see two of the Real Apprentices in their jobs over 10 years later – one manages a team!


In December 2013 a conversation saw Growing Talent devised and launched in February 2014.  A three month, full time into work programme with a permanent, full-time guaranteed job up front, appraisal audit trail for progression monitoring Orientation Week to build confidence and Holistic Week – initially carried out as a residential stay at a country hotel has seen 148 people into permanent jobs from diverse, vulnerable backgrounds.  All employers say they would not have employed anyone through the traditional route but having seen them over a period of time learning the vacant role, working with the team and seeing their confidence and potential grow in situ made it a win win.  According to JobCentre Plus’s overall lead for Growing Talent at least 100 more have gone into work through the feedback and guidance they got in the application process.  Which is great to hear.


Now over five years into Growing Talent we’ve streamlined it.  Now six weeks long, still a guaranteed full-time job up front, Orientation and Holistic week – carried out as a day attendance in London with the ability to extend for more technical roles or family crisis.


Years on year, I get thank you gifts, cards, flowers, texts, emails – its really heartwarming to know I’m making a difference and as the guys say ‘changing lives’.


Getting back to the title of this post, I’ve been pondering the reason for continuing with Growing Talent.  The reason for this is 18 months ago a legal process was started by one individual applying for the programme who didn’t get through.  The pressure of dealing with this process as well as family life, mentoring others, as well as continue to run Growing Talent made me think – ‘is it really worth it’.  Had I shut Growing Talent down 18months ago at the start of this process 26 vulnerable people would not be in their full-time jobs today.  All with labels.  All previously stereotyped.


Yesterday, I had another pile of legal papers to work through in connection with the process mentioned above but then came the following card to my mail box….



Heavenly has made me see how important it is not to let the bad eclipse the good and as there are 147 others who think the same as Heavenly and only 1 who doesn’t  Growing Talent must be doing good and must continue!


Thanks Heavenly!



The end of the road…………

Today is the final day of Growing Talent 21.  Nine of the 13 who started the journey have completed and secured their permanent roles.


Their true grit and determination has paid off.


Congratulations and respect to:


Amar – joined MitieTDM – Specialist Internal Firm Services

Bernie -joined MitieTDM – Specialist Internal Firm Services

Navin -joined MitieTDM – Specialist Internal Firm Services

Kelly – joined Melia White House Hotel

Heavenly – joined Firmdale Hotel

Robert – joined Firmdale Hotel – initially as Kitchen Porter but his performance saw him start as Commis Chef

Natasha – joined Firmdale Hotel

Charlie-Ray – joined Portico at PwC

Katrina – joined Portico at PwC


We wish them all well in their careers ahead………………



You are what you eat – essential when on a budget – HBN

The final day of Growing Talent 21’s Holistic Week included the excellent nutrition on a budget workshop delivered by Kate from Healthy Bites Nutrition.  A registered nutritionist, Kate devised this workshop especially for Growing Talent Associates showing them that good food doesn’t have to be expensive to be nutritional and can be prepared quick and easily too!


After sharing lots of ideas for healthy snack swaps as well as packed lunch ideas, Kate ran a practical to make a healthy pot noodle using a variety of fresh, canned and frozen vegetables, dried herbs/spices and limes.


Were the guys up for the challenge……………. of course they were!



So what were the guys thoughts on this workshop?


“This was interesting.  I will definitely use some of the things I learnt to improve my diet”

“Great info to help eat healthily”

“It was great to learn about the different food groups”

“Learning about portion control and balance stand out for me”

“This gave me lots of ideas for quick, healthy lunches and of course saving money”

“Some great budget tips”


We ended after lunch when the guys left for a celebratory drink ahead of starting their permanent jobs!  What a journey!

Holistic – Day 4 – Fitness Reigns Supreme!

After completing the 2nd half of the Art project, the Growing Talent Associates were issued with a challenge to design a wellbeing magazine using the knowledge they had learnt for features.


After some bewilderment, they grasped the challenge and hit the ground running – after a few lattes of course!


Amar and Robert decided to do a front and back cover using the front for wellbeing topics and the rear for nutrition although the chilli drawn by Amar was a strange colour due to lack of felt tips!!!!

Here they are presenting the finished ‘magazine’! helped by Shennell!


A close up of Natasha & Charlie-Ray’s Fitness Weekly & presenting it’s finer points….


Charlie-Ray show cased clap press-ups – a feature of their magazine:


Looking good……. but after 3 …….


Exhaustion hit!!! Well done Charlie for showing us though!


Last, but not least, Shennell and Adeyinka delivered their magazine idea….


A fun day, with new lessons learnt.

Holistic Week – Day 3 – Art Attack!

Following the Mental Health First Aiders course, the Growing Talent Associates are ready for a little ‘RnR’.  What could be better than part one of their Art Project?


Following a morning of completing workshops including Hippy Dippy – getting the right amount of sleep, using the right brain, etc the guys were issued with a challenge to visit the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square to find a piece of art that ‘spoke’ to them – good or bad.  They then had to write down some information about the piece – artist, name of the work, and any background.  They then had to consider, how they felt looking at the work before finally deciding what question they would ask the artist if they could!


This process makes you look at art in a completely different light.  As the gallery has free admission, it’s logical to make use of it for our own well-being – a foundation ethos of Growing Talent’s Holistic Week!


After lunch they all left together to take up the challenge!


On returning Thursday morning we did part 2 of the Art challenge.  First we watched a great TedTalk video by Graham Shaw teaching the basics of cartoon drawing – proving we can all draw!  Then we did some blind drawing – so difficult not looking at the paper when drawing – hilarious results.  Finally the guys drew each other!  So much laughter in the room!


Robert joining Firmdale Hotels & Amar joining MitieTDM portrait drawing each other.


Natasha joining Firmdale Hotels and Charlie-Ray joining Portico silently concentrating.



Navin – MitieTDM and Katrina – Portico as professional as ever!


Poor Adeyinka taking his time getting Shennell’s features just right and she’s clearly bored!


All agreed this was therapeutic and fun.  You could almost touch the concentration in the air whilst they were drawing!

The final challenge was to draw the pieces that spoke to them at the National Gallery!  This drew gasps of what I can only describe as ‘excitement’ as some had picked really intricate pieces.  But all had a go.


So what were their thoughts on the Art project?

“The Gallery visit was inspirational and the drawing challenges showed I can do something relaxing during my breaks”


“It’s been years since I went to a Gallery in London.  This was education and relaxing.  The practical showed me that I can actually draw!  My cartoon character skills have shown me that”


“I loved the Gallery visit.  It was great to step out of busy London and mindfully look at the paintings.  The worksheet helped me look at art more inquisitively”


“At the Gallery I learnt about different types of art.  The art class was truly relaxing”


“The Gallery visit was very relaxing and gave me an opportunity to unwind.  The art class showed me how to use art as a way to remove negative emotions and make something beautiful”


“The Gallery trip was interesting and much needed.  The art class was fun and a blast!”


“Visiting the Gallery gave me an understanding of art.  The art class was  a lot of fun and relaxing”


“I didn’t go to the Gallery but did the art class.  I learnt even doodling can be quite relaxing and improved my concentration.”


“The art class was very relaxing and I am going to draw more when feeling stressed”


“This took me out of my comfort zone – which was good.  You can use art to combat everyday struggles”





Qualified #MentalHealthFirstAiders!

As part of Growing Talent we deliver the global Mental Health First Aider qualification for every Growing Talent Associate on the programme and invite some of the employer managers as well.


This intense course makes up the first two days of the Holistic Week, which for Growing Talent 21 was 29 and 30 April 2019.


The course teaches confidence and awareness in recognising a change in someone, starting a conversation, signposting on to appropriate help and – vitally – self care.


The first day sets the solid foundation of the work of mental health covering legislation, the start of MHFA in Australia the spread throughout the globe, depression and suicide.  The five global steps of intervention are introduced and used throughout the day.  ALGEE is fundamental in remembering the process to support someone and ourselves.  Keen to ensure there is no communication misunderstanding, I introduce ‘reflect back’ from the start of the MHFA course.  After listening, it’s essential in my opinion to reflect back what we’ve heard to ensure we have the facts.  Especially crucial when raising suicidal thoughts.  Day two covers anxiety, personality and eating disorders as well as psychosis – focussing on BiPolar and Schizophrenia.


Shennell joined us for the week to support and encourage the guys.  She did Growing Talent some four years ago.  She took a photo of her original manual and the current one for comparison.



We all agreed the new manual is a big improvement and a gym workout as well!


So after two exhausting days, what did the Growing Talent Associates and employers think?


“Intense course but essential in today’s society”

“This course has exceeded by expectations.”

“I’ve learnt a deeper understanding of mental illness and methods to support”

“This course gave me a better understanding of mental ill health”

“I can now empathise what a person may go through”

“It has changed my approach to mental health.”

“My confidence has increased a lot.  I can now understand rather than judge people”

“I have learnt so much”

“A very insightful two days”

“I now have the knowledge  to support someone and keep myself safe”

“A brilliant course.  Please continue to teach it”


There was unanimous agreement on increased knowledge, tools learnt, fear factor greatly reduced and confidence to plan, start and signpost a conversation with someone struggling.


A great day at the office then!


All delegates were given the homework to spend one hour on themselves before returning on Wednesday for the continuance of the Holistic Week.


We should all take time to nurture ourselves.  Don’t you agree?


Doing the right thing or risking a lawsuit? Food for thought?

As a Mental Health Instructor for over 10 years, I am enthused to see the growth towards seeing and respecting mental health in in the same way we see and respect physical health.  Everyone is comfortable enquiring if a cold is better – not quite so comfortable asking how someone is feeling on their return to work after say depression.


The internet is full of well intentioned plans and events to raise the bar in talking about mental health and I see more employers supporting events like #MHAW2019 – Mental Health Awareness Week which starts 13 May.  Really great intentions.


But is there a risk of being sued under the Equalities Act 2010 and taken to Employment Tribunal?


Some of the employers I know allow all staff, regardless of screening to see if they are equipped to listen to someone else’s pain, to be a ‘listening ear’.


You don’t know what you are going to hear when you sit down to listen to someone struggling.  It can be an emotive area the listener has strong views on – such as self-harm.  Even if they can listen without judging – are they knowledgeable on how to signpost someone on? do they know how to take care of themselves after listening to someone’s pain?


I feel very strongly that we should be talking more openly in every day conversations about all human issues especially mental health.  But I feel just as strongly that we need to train those listeners how to listen, signpost and look after themselves.


Why not have a #MHAAT (Mental Health Aware And Trained) badge for trained employees to wear all year – not just one week.  Wouldn’t we make more of an impact and reduce the risk of a challenge under the Equalities Act at Employment Tribunal?


What do you think?