The benefits of virtual learning

For the 10+ years I’ve been a MHFAEngland Instructor, I’ve been looking for a mental health and wellbeing programme to deliver which was accredited by a qualifying body delivering real value rather than the usual courses that just end with a Certificate of Attendance.

I stumbled across http://www.i-act.co.uk who devised mental health and well-being products specifically for the workplace. Both courses come with a 168 page manual, 50 self-help tools to use and 95 referral organisations for different mental health issues.

Having done the manager’s course – Managing and Promoting Positive Mental Health and WELLBeing – accredited by the Royal College of Psychiatrists with CPD points – I knew this was a key product which would deliver real value to my clients.

I decided to apply for the Instructor’s accreditation to deliver both the manager course and the ‘Understanding and Promoting Positive Mental Health and WELLbeing in the Workplace’ for non-management employees.

At the start of this week myself and others from all corners of the UK, Bahrain and Hong Kong met online with one of the co-founders Pete – a Clinical Psychiatrist and mine of information – also our Instructor. After watching Pete deliver, we then had to deliver the whole programme in our own style with a couple of peers giving feedback.

Solid connections were made. Messages of encouragement flowed over WhatsApp as we all became accredited instructors.

I now intend adding these two excellent courses to my portfolio of training to employers looking to ensure their staff at all levels are maintaining optimum levels of wellbeing duding real value to their bottom line and brand reputation.

The opportunities that open up when you least expect them can lead to incredible places.

Will it work?

Today sees the official launch of the Government’s Kick Start programme aimed at  unemployed 18-24 year olds.  The idea, as reported in the press this morning, is Government will pay employers £1,500 per head towards a 25 per week, six month work experience placement.  The Government’s idea is many will be kept on or step into permanent jobs elsewhere.  Referrals will be made by JobCentre Plus staff.  One of the first employers to sign-up is Tesco who want 1,000 people.

Check out http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-53985144

 

Alarm bells are ringing for me.  I wonder if this has been thought through properly.  We have evidence from various previous work programmes including the recent Future Jobs Fund which doesn’t seem to have been learned from going by the press reports today.

 

My concerns are:

 

  1.     Will there be vetting of employers to ensure integrity that these unemployed young people won’t be scarred further by being used for six months in basic roles with nothing at the end?
  2.     Is a robust audit trail in place so all parties are accountable and progress/gaps in training are addressable?
  3.     What ‘work experience’ elements will be focussed on to ensure attractiveness to employers who do have jobs but don’t want to have to ‘re-train’ bad habits?
  4.     How can employers in good consciousness take part if they have furloughed/made their own staff redundant?
  5.     JobCentre Plus staff are on a huge recruitment drive themselves with thousands being recruited into Work Coach positions.  How will KickStart be managed to ensure any concerns raised are investigated quickly?

 

At Growing Talent, we know it’s successful even where there are multiple barriers to employment in place for unemployed individuals because:

 

  1.     There is a dedicated mentor for individuals, employers and sole contact with JobCentre Plus leads to monitor progress and address issues immediately
  2.     There is a robust audit trail to highlight progress/training gaps
  3.     It’s five weeks long including a week orientation and holistic whole person skills
  4.     There are robust employer and participant agreements in place
  5.     There is a permanent job ring-fenced for the individual at the start of the journey which is theirs on completion

 

I would personally be more reassured if this KickStart programme was targeting future industries – Artificial Intelligence, Coding, green energies or industries that usually look at degree education/experience such as financial services.  To ask someone to work for six months with no guaranteed job on completion with employers like Tesco fills me with concern.  What about you?

 

 

 

 

 

Deflated? Never at Growing Talent – ready for any challenge!

We all know the pleasure and the pain that Coronavirus has brought. Although we’ve all been in the same sea trying to get to the other side, we’re all in different boats.

It’s been a rollacoaster for everyone – maybe just to different degrees.

For those able to work from home, there’s maybe been the challenge that others in your family have been doing the same! Home schooling for those with children has been an added dimension – not all bad but not all good either!

Some of us have been forced to look at our own wellbeing. If we’re lucky enough to have gardens – they are likely re-designed and weed free! Some may have set some space aside for a veg plot having seen the advantages of growing your own – especially in a pandemic!

Some have taken the time to learn new skills – learn a new language, bricklaying or joined an online choir or logo class.

For some living in rooms without their own space or garden the initial lockdown is particularly tough.

Now we’re nearing the end of lockdown and the end of the furlough scheme which is seeing the unemployment figures rise exponentially. Graduates and those who have finished A levels are leaving full-time education. There has never been so much untapped talent in decades.

The poison chalice of unemployment quickly strips away self-worth and belief even in those previously highly confident with solid work histories. This needs addressing. It won’t work for everyone being put into a job without a programme of rebuilding their self-esteem – enter Growing Talent!

After six years collaboration with Job Centre Plus on Growing Talent, I was approached by two key cheerleaders of Growing Talent – also managers at JCP! – to run some programmes to address this self-esteem void along with knowledge for job searching to give those looking for work the edge wellbeing and so on.

Next week kicks off a week long programme for Jill – JCP manager at Bromley for some of her customers. Followed by two sessions the following week specifically aimed at Graduates. We’re really pleased Sophie and the team at Smart Works are joining us on these session to showcase their amazing offering.

In August a week long course is deliver for Rajen of Job Centre Plus in East London.

Meeting and exceeding the Government’s Kick Start programme our partnership will deliver empowerment to participants to sustainably move forward.

Ask any Growing Talent Associate or Graduate – we’re never deflated and always ready for any challenge!

Can’t wait to get started!Deflatd

Annarita’s thoughts on Growing Talent

It’s been an intense journey for Annarita. Following a difficult period of unemployment and various issues in her personal life, her self-esteem and joie de vie and plummeted whilst her anxiety had risen.

 

With her streak of courage and bravery, Annarita accepted the provisional role with PwC in their secretarial team even though it was completely outside her usual work area.  She embraced every challenge thrown at her along the way.  As you can see in the feature photo with head judge, Allen from PwC, Annarita’s idea won the Social Enterprise challenge.

 

So now she’s graduated and gone into work with PwC – what are her thoughts on the journey she’s been on?

 

‘If I could go back to the beginning, I’d still do Growing Talent.  It’s given me the chance to get a step in the door and get back on the career ladder.  I’ve learned it’s about the journey, jot the destination. Stepping stones lead to a giant rock of your dreams.  Growing Talent helps people move forward with their lives’.

 

What is Annarita’s top tip to complete Growing Talent for those following her?

 

‘Try and take in all the information given as you may feel like you don’t need it right now but at some point down the line you’ll realise you do”

 

Any motivational thoughts Annarita?

 

“Keep going! Every step counts towards your personal growth whether it’s emotionally, financially or physically, take notice, be aware and step back – look at what you’ve achieved as each day passes.  One day you may find you’ve obtained all the things you have always dreamt about”

 

So there you have it from one that knows.

Growing Talent 25 has completed…… bring on GT26!

In January, we started off with 40 enthused, unemployed people applying for Growing Talent.  Following the Employer Speed Dating held mid-January, 15 were selected by employers for a 1-2-1 second stage meeting.  Offers were made, some rejected so we commenced Growing Talent 25 with three participants from diverse backgrounds who all shared one thing in common – they wanted to work!

 

Michelle & Tara from PwC joined the session and selected Annarita , below, to join them!

This is a big departure for Annarita.  Following a background in textile design she is now part of PwC’s secretarial community.

 

Kate – a regular recruiter on Growing Talent – from Firmdale Hotels, selected Kerry to join their Haymarket hotel within the housekeeping team.  Kerry is loving the role and already got her eye on progression not to mention the staff perks!

 

Annarita & Kerry – trained first aiders in Mental Health during the holistic part of Growing Talent.

 

Lastly, Sergio and Lina from ISS selected Nazzarriey to join their waste and segregation team.  Naazzaariey – seen below with Kerry is getting used to the routine of working and planning things she can do with her wages….

 

 

We wish them well on their adventures ahead now they have a regular salary coming in…..

Highlights of their journey include:

Awaiting feedback on their excellent Social Enterprise presentation and more importantly the winner!

 

Emma from Unravelling Minds showing how art helps with wellbeing….

 

Lesley mid-flow delivering her 3Rs – techniques for staying healthy in the workplace.

 

This is one of the few times Growing Talent has experienced 100% who started completed and went into work!  Great outcome for all…

 

What does the road ahead hold for them? who knows – but that’s part of the excitement of life – right?

The 26th programme starts in March…. watch this space!

 

Employers’ Speed Dating – 21 January 2020!

Our first speed dating (first stage selection) for Growing Talent commences with a quick fire speed session which enables employers to identify those they wold like to meet for a more in-depth chat about their roles on their sites.

 

With no cvs nor formal interview to undergo, the atmosphere is relaxed and laughter quickly flows.

Andy from Winlight Recruitment chatting to some participants….

 

For employers Growing Talent is the only way to ‘test drive’ someone in their vacant role ensuring they fit the role, team, company BEFORE hiring.  Even more attractive is this doesn’t cost s penny.  Run and funded by business for business.

Always smiling! Pedro and Sharaz from Pertemps checking out the untapped talent out there….

 

Equally important is the applicant experience.  Growing Talent is only open to unemployed people over the age of 18 – no upper age limit – in London who have a strong will to work but need a little TLC.

 

 

Growing Talent enables unemployed people to shine and grow on their journey to employment.  With a provisional job upfront, they are aware of the end job.  As the employer trains them in that role during the programme, there are no surprises.

Kate from Firmdale Hotels returned to share the opportunities available……

 

If you are looking to get new talent in your business confidently and cost effectively or an unemployed and looking to get a role where you have the opportunity to prove yourself …… check out Growing Talent now.

Sergio & Lina from ISS – Sergio’s first time at speed dating!

 

What have you got to lose?  Why not check out Growing Talent 26 in March?

 

Social mobility in action delivering equality and diversity automatically.

The end of Growing Talent for 2019

Our Graduation on 16 December marks the closure of Growing Talent for 2019.  Thanks to the funders, it will be back in 2020 with 6 new programmes confirmed.

 

As we approach closure of this year, I reflect back on the trials and triumphs of 2019 for Growing Talent.

First the trials!

January 2019 we kicked off with the new format of Growing Talent – reducing down the time spent training in the vacant role with the employer from 10 weeks to four.  The Orientation and Holistic weeks remain the same. This has caused a few concerns.  For those people who have multiple barriers to employment, four weeks isn’t always long enough to grow in confidence to be sure the end role is the right role.

JobCentre Plus has been restructured with leads who knew Growing Talent well moved to different roles.  This has meant a vastly reduced support from East, West and North London districts.  Unfortunately, this meant we lost an excellent employer with great roles based around the M25.

With the full roll out of Universal Credit, JobCentre Plus has little contact with unemployed people who just need a confidence boost.  Each JobCentre is authorised to display what posters they want.  With so many of their own Government programmes, Growing Talent posters were never put up!  Therefore, those people submitted by JobCentre Plus often have more barriers to overcome in their quest for employment.

 

Now the Triumphs! – which for me eclipse the trials!

From January – December 2019 we had 34 unemployed people start Growing talent from all social, educational backgrounds.  Out of these, 27 completed Growing Talent and secured their permanent jobs.

 

We had our first father and son success story!  Referred by a friend who secured their role on Growing Talent in 2018, Navin applied and secured his role with Mitie based at Embankment Place.  Navin introduced his dad Nalin to me.  A fascinating career with diverse experience including a long tenure supporting the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to London!  After multiple senior management roles, Nalin decided to retire.  When he realised it was too early and he wanted to return to work, he encountered employers looking at his past experience rather than what he wanted to do now.  After an introduction, Nalin started a night role as hotel manager with Club Quarters.  He told me last week he’s now secured the day role he wanted at another Club Quarters Hotel and is very happy!

 

Bernie who was on the same Growing Talent with Navin, wanted to go to Canada and see a bear.  He told me a few weeks back he’d achieved his dream.  Bumping into the Graduates of Growing Talent and seeing them achieve their goals and grow so much is awe inspiring.

 

I know from the feedback all participants give me at each stage of their journey, Growing Talent has literally changed their lives.

 

The triumphs far outweigh the trials!

 

Orientation Week – What Is it? What happens?

The Orientation Week is a series of workshops to boost confidence of those applicants selected by employers for a place on Growing Talent, delivering a permanent, full-time job on completion.  It’s carried out at a central London location prior to applicants going on site with their employers.

 

For the whole of 2019, we’ve carried out all speed dating events, orientation and holistic weeks are Etc Venues in Eastcheap.  Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea is provided along with fresh fruit, tea/coffee/hot chocolate, herbal teas and smoothies/orange juice with breakfast.

 

From the start of the Growing Talent journey, all participants – known as Growing Talent Associates – feel invested in and start increasing their self-esteem.  Their #YesICan attitude increases massively.

 

During the Orientation Week we have visiting professionals to share communication, art therapy and workplace choices to increase knowledge.

 

Within 10 minutes of arriving for the start of the Orientation Week, Associates are tasked with their first challenge.  To draw a set number of images about milestones in their life and then present them.  Yes, public speaking in front of strangers!  It works every time to showcase just how strong Associates are.  They start believing in themselves, not the perception of their labels.

 

During this week, Jade from CCF (Customer Care First – an excellent training company Jade started) delivers her bespoke 2 hour workshop with the Associates sharing all the nuances of communication from body language, spatial awareness, tone, emphasis etc to the topics to avoid in effective communication.

 

Daniel going to Pertemps and Tequila going to Churchill Services discuss topics that are ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ to discuss with clients…..

 

Debbie and Juliet – both going to Park Plaza Hotel in Westminster, doing the same task as Daniel and Tequila above but addressee colleagues/managers….

 

Jade and the guys above discussing the importance of tongue twisters for loosening facial muscles making it easier to speak for longer.

 

Tequila and Juliet experiencing how important communication is.  Juliet is holding a picture of a pair of boots which she has to describe to Tequila who draws what she hears.  Laughter aside, it proves the point we need to ask questions and probe to make sure we have the right information to complete our tasks at work.  As Tequila said ‘I never asked if it was a pair!’

 

The Jade’s session ended with smiles all round in the knowledge the Associates have more knowhow in communication!

 

Lesley, Head of Health, Safety & Environment at PwC always delivers her excellent ‘Zest for Life’ workshop featuring the 3Rs – Refuel, Rejuvinate and Renewal.  Knowledge, information and tips for Associates to look after themselves on the Growing Talent journey and beyond!

 

 

Lesley introduces herself and shares her journey of how she got her current role which was unplanned and totally unexpected but ended up being something she loves.

 

Explaining how humans were not designed for the predominantly desk based jobs we do now, she asked the Associates to think of their roles and come up with suggestions of a body to do their tasks adequately.  As you can see the two heads/multiple arms in the drawing below look like something of a SciFi prototype!  However, if shows we must be vigilant in taking care of ourselves so our bodies do not suffer.

 

A key thing is our body bank balance!  Things such as coffee – too much is bad but if we follow each cup of coffee with a cup of water it balances out.

 

Lesley then shared tips on nutrition, saving money by making our own lunches, batch cooking and freezing as well as top tips on relaxation and finding what works for us.

 

She then set the task of each pair of Associates thinking of three questions for the opposing pair to answer based on her workshop.

 

Tequila & Daniel devising their questions…..

 

Debbie & Juliet devising their questions for Tequila and Daniel.  I’m glad to report all gave the right answers #payingattention

 

Smiles all round as Lesley left after sharing key knowledge…..

 

Emma from Unravelling Minds attends to deliver her Art Therapy workshop and join the Associates for lunch after.

 

 

Emma shares her journey from high powered/pressurised career in fashion to complete mental health breakdown.  Art was a particular feature in her recovery and she now shares her learning with others.  Previously involved with Balloons and the Brain and now Unravelling Minds, Emma runs a unique cafe.  A safe non-clinical environment for people to bake and talk together – CBT_Cafe (Cake Before Therapy – what’s not to like!). Check out the remaining dates and information on Emma’s journey below.

 

Whilst sharing her journey, Emma invites the Associates to select one of three challenges to see how art during their lunch breaks or at any quiet time calms the mind.

  1.     Heart full of favourite things
  2.     Graffiti newspaper
  3.     Illustrate your Growing Talent mantra
  4.     Start with a doodle and see where it takes you

The concentration and quiet in the room was amazing!

Daniel’s mantra with it’s hidden message uncovered

Debbie taking up the graffiti challenge!

Juliet focussing on her favourite things.

Tequila starting off with a doodle which soon filled the page!

Juliet also shared her steps of affirmation.

Time for a group shot before an interactive lunch together.

Various workshops with me continued throughout the week ending with the Social Enterprise Challenge.  Up for grabs was £50 cash.

 

The running challenge throughout the week is to devise and deliver a social enterprise to benefit a local community and vulnerable group living there.

 

Judges l-r seated are Anna – JobCentre Plus, Judith – Churchill Services, Pedro – Head Judge from Pertemps and Shennell – Growing Talent Ambassador who completed Growing Talent on the 5th programme!

Associates standing l-r are Juliet, Tequila, Debbie & Daniel.

First to present was Debbie delivering her Brighter Futures.  Based in Wandsworth it focussed on upskilling ex-offenders by teaching them skills to refurbish a venue given by Wandsworth Council.  These skills would enable them to apply for roles with the Council in maintenance as well as FM companies.  In return the ex-offenders would share their bad choices and consequences with excluded 10-13 year olds with the target of enabling them to make the right choices.  Professionals from law, social services, medical etc would attend to help with any issues the participants experienced.  A safe space to learn, grow and become more productive.

Next to present was Daniel with his Health Hotspot based in Orpington.  Daniel described the location and need for information and choices for better health.  Many people develop intolerances to certain food groups.  Learning from others with the same intolerance on recipes, adapting ingredients etc would be hugely beneficial and break down barriers.  Equally people making choices based on media/fashion such as ‘clean’ diet, ‘sugar free’ – often includes sugar under a different name!, ‘vegan’ – how to ensure you get enough protein and so on.  Learning together builds community spirit.

Juliet’s presentation ‘Brotherhood Marching Together’ targeting the stigma within the Afro Caribbean community towards prostrate cancer using colour, music, joy and information was delivered with passion based on Juliet’s own family experience of the disease.  ‘Afro Caribbean men don’t talk about such things’. Mindful of inclusivity Juliet wanted all men in the Brixton area where she lives to be included.  So men can support men regardless of their cultural background.  Using the 02 at Brixton for the end music extravaganza, the day would start at the Museum of Black History with cancer charity specialists in place to talk about the stigma.  Affected men and their families can ask questions in a non-clinical environment.  Moving to the square where a plethora of stalls for music, food, clothes would highlight all cultures in the area breaking down barriers.  All money raised from entry fees etc would go to research.  The event would build support structures for all concerned.

Finally, Tequila shared her vision of Take Action.  A unique idea to upskill low income parents in turning their houses into homes and also making them more employable with these new skills such as painting and decorating, tiling, plumbing and so on.  Tequila shared her view that children of low income families are often introverted and don’t have a voice.  Take Action would enable the children to design their bedrooms to be their ‘space’ and give them confidence in using their voice.  Supported by local colleges and organisations like B&Q the change delivered would be lifelong and really make a different.

The judges had a tough time whittling down these great ideas to just one winner.  Who was it????

Juliet collecting her £50 prize from head judge Pedro….

Ahead of lunch with the Associates, the judges shared their journey to the current roles along with their top tips for shining at work.

 

After completing their evaluations after lunch, the Associates left to relax over the weekend ahead of starting on their employer sites.

 

Check back to see how they get on…..

Speed dating – Growing Talent style!

The toughest thing to overcome when looking for employment after a period of unemployment is being judged on your label(s).

 

By that I mean recruiters/employers ofter see your label(s) and the assumptions they make about the potential impact of those label(s) without speaking with you to understand the facts.

 

For example, a homeless, single parent who is unemployed will often be perceived as someone who is unstable and unreliable with zero transferable skills into the world of employment.

 

In reality, homeless doesn’t always mean ‘sleeping on the streets’ – although I think sleeping is the wrong word.  No one can sleep soundly on the streets with all the dangers that environment presents.

 

Single parents, in my experience,  have an array of skills which add value to employers.  All are great problem solvers, they are life coaches, highly organised solution finders with strong time management skills along with the drive and attitude to succeed to be positive role models for their children as well as establish a career path for themselves.  Any employer can train in their area of expertise but they can’t train ‘attitude’.  They are missing an excellent talent pool.

 

At Growing Talent, based on my own experience, we do not allow traditional recruitment methods.  There are no cvs nor job descriptions.  Employers select based on their belief of someone’s attitude to grow into their vacancy.  As every applicant has usually more than one barrier to employment, we partner with JobCentre Plus to ensure a financial safety net if someone is selected but doesn’t complete and secure the provisional permanent job offer.  This removes the ‘fear’ from those unemployed people who really want to work but have that nagging ‘what if’ in their heads.

 

So, to ensure employers and applicants are on the same level playing field, we have a speed dating session.  These always start really quietly.  Within 10minutes everyone is relaxed, laughing with each other and showing who they really are.

 

In small groups, applicants spend 10 minutes at each employer table finding out a little about the company and permanent jobs on offer.  The employers have the same window of time to find out a little about all applicants.

 

Some examples of previously employer speed dating events:

 

Employers select their shortlist from this event.  Shortlisted applicants attend a 1-2-1 meeting on the employer site where the job is based to learn more details.

 

At the point any offers are made to go on the Growing Talent journey with the employer, everything is known upfront about the end job.  There is no mystery around salary, bonus, benefits, hours, shifts etc.

 

How often do you go for a traditional job interview and leave as mystified as when you went in?

 

Growing Talent removes any doubt for both sides and everyone loves the spontaneity of speed dating – who not use it in recruitment?

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