Opportunity Sheffield Partners’ Employability Conference, 15 Oct – Review

On Tuesday 16 October Opportunity Sheffield staged a capacity-building conference for partner organisations currently working on its ESF Pathways and Sheffield’s Working programmes. Some 65 managers and front-line employability professionals from across 21 organisations attended the event, which was staged at St Mary’s Church on Bramall Lane.

The event began with an ice-breaker – with each of the 12 tables challenged to build a high tower out of marshmallow and spaghetti – before Laura Hayfield, Acting Head of Employment & Skills at Sheffield City Council, provided an overview of Opportunity Sheffield activity. She discussed the achievements of the Council’s employment and skills service, in terms of people engaged and the number of people supported into jobs, apprenticeships, training and work placements.

Matthew Teale, ESF Project Manager at Opportunity Sheffield, spoke about the ESF Pathways Project, which commenced earlier in 2019. He clarified a number of points relating to compliance, participant engagements, evidence-gathering and information management, and notified keyworker organisations of ongoing project developments.  

Gareth Urwin, Development Manager at Opportunity Sheffield, informed attendees about Sheffield City Council’s apprenticeship service, which provides training for both Council staff and externally-employed individuals through the CDC and Red Tape training centres. He discussed rules, eligibility and potential benefits, highlighting opportunities for providers to promote the apprenticeship route to participants engaged on ESF Pathways and Sheffield’s Working.

The guest speaker on the day was Scott Parkin from the Institute of Employability Professionals (IEP), who explained the work the sector body is doing to raise standards nationally by developing industry qualifications and promoting best-practice. He pointed to some of the potential benefits of joining the IEP and explained the range of options open to organisations.

Cllr Adam Hurst, Cabinet Adviser for Education and Skills at Sheffield City Council, was welcomed to the stage to present the 2019 Opportunity Sheffield Awards. Advisor of the Year went to Tammy Piercey of Burngreave Works; Big Ambitions CIC was named Provider of the Year. Cllr Hurst also presented three Beneficiary Awards to Opportunity Sheffield programme participants who have overcome significant barriers to enter the employment market and thrive in the workplace.

After lunch, John Powell, Programme Manager at Opportunity Sheffield discussed programme commissioning for 2020-21, including the type of activity the Council is intending to put out to tender. Then, during a round table exercise, participants were invited to provide feedback on existing provision and suggest ways Opportunity Sheffield can more effectively meet the needs of jobseekers, employers and providers across the city.

Groups were invited to answer the following questions:

  • What part of the current process in finding a client a job doesn’t work well enough and could be improved?
  • Is there any additional wrap-around support provision you would find really helpful in finding a client a job?
  • What particular group(s) in Sheffield should SCC focus future provision on?
  • Is there any further training for either clients or advisors you would find helpful?

The event closed at 3:00pm, with providers invited to provide any additional feedback to opportunity@sheffield.gov.uk