From education to employment

Navigating Employability: A Year of Growth, Challenges, and Aspirations

Scott Parkin

In this end of year review, Scott Parkin FIEP, the Group CEO of the Institute of Employability Professionals (IEP), reflects on the organisation’s remarkable growth in 2023, highlighting its achievements, international partnerships, the development of a Quality Improvement Framework, Centre for Employability Excellence and the IEP’s commitment to futureproofing the sector.

A Defining Year for Employability

As we stand on the cusp of a new year, it is both a privilege and a pleasure to reflect on 2023, a year which has marked a defining chapter in the IEP’s history and helped develop a forward-looking vision that encapsulates the dynamism of the employability sector.

The landscape of employability in the UK underwent a series of substantial policy changes, with the government’s Back to Work Plan and the extension of the Restart Scheme providing much-needed stability. These steps have helped lay a foundation for our members and their organisations, allowing the sector to continue developing and delivering impactful services for participants. Stability is the bedrock of progress, and this extension opens up avenues for enhanced support and opportunities for both professionals and participants alike.

The Autumn Statement further bolstered the employability sector, introducing positive measures such as the increase in the National Living Wage. While these steps are commendable, it’s crucial to acknowledge the challenges accompanying welfare reform. The anticipated rise in individuals with complex barriers demands targeted support. The extension of the Restart Scheme and the Back to Work Plan will lead to increased referrals, presenting participants with evolving complexities and multiple barriers to employment.

IEP’s Futureproof Initiative

In response to this evolving landscape, the IEP has proactively embraced the concept of ‘futureproofing’ the sector. A testament to this commitment is the upcoming launch of the IEP Award in Supporting Participants with Complex Needs. This qualification, set to debut in January, addresses the rising significance of understanding and addressing mental health, physical or learning disabilities, addiction, lone parenthood, neurodiversity, age, sexuality, and cultural loneliness—elements that often serve as hidden barriers to work.

Expanding International partnerships

2023 saw a significant expansion of our international partnerships. Establishing connections in countries like Australia, Sweden, The Netherlands, and Canada has not only broadened our global reach but has also enriched the knowledge base within the Institute. The establishment of offices in Sweden and Australia, coupled with a pilot learning programme in Canada, reflects our commitment to sharing and gaining knowledge from global partners to enhance service development in the UK.

Our presence in Australia gained further prominence with elements of our submissions to the Select Committee on Workforce Australia being included in the Australian Parliament’s ‘Rebuilding Employment Services’ Report. These international collaborations are not isolated endeavours; rather, they intricately intertwine with our commitment to excellence in the UK. The success of bringing IEP to other parts of the world attests to the shared challenges and importance of employability on a broader, global scale.

Crafting a Global Platform

The development of the Centre for Employability Excellence has been a significant stride in 2023. Launched this year, the centre, in collaboration with an Advisory Board comprising academics, researchers, policymakers, and employability stakeholders worldwide, is crafting a global platform for research and good practice in employability. This initiative fosters collaboration and discussion at every stage of the employability journey.

Global Impact, Local Excellence & Achievements

As we celebrate the impact made on the global stage, it’s essential to underscore that our international engagements are seamlessly woven into our commitment to excellence in the UK. Through IEP Sweden and IEP Australia, we are not only building relationships but also enhancing our reputation with governments and public servants globally. The goal is not just to contribute to our own community’s betterment but to champion a collective effort that elevates international practice and service delivery.

Another pivotal achievement in 2023 is the development of a Quality Improvement Framework (QIF) for the employability sector. In collaboration with various organisations, the QIF aims to drive a culture of progress and positive change. It is a roadmap for systematically identifying, addressing, and learning from areas of improvement, fostering a culture of ongoing excellence. Discussions with government agencies and stakeholders will continue throughout the year to solidify standards and benchmarks, making the QIF an exciting and crucial development for the entire employability sector.

Looking Ahead

Looking to the year ahead, the IEP envisions a future where employability professionals continue to contribute significantly to the growth and professionalisation of the sector. We anticipate collaborating with partners from all corners of the world to shape a brighter future. However, as we set our sights on the horizon, there are changes we hope to see materialise in the coming year.

Empowering Employability: Collaboration, Improvement, Development

Firstly, we hope for continued collaboration between the government and employability sector stakeholders to address emerging challenges effectively. This includes maintaining and expanding support for individuals with complex barriers, and ensuring that policy changes align with the evolving needs of both professionals and participants.

Secondly, fostering a culture of continuous improvement is paramount. The Quality Improvement Framework, once fully embraced, has the potential to revolutionise how the sector identifies and addresses areas for enhancement. We aspire to see widespread adoption and engagement with the QIF to elevate standards across the entire employability landscape.

Lastly, a key aim for the IEP is to continue to enhance professional development opportunities through qualifications like the IEP Award in Supporting Participants with Complex Needs and through further expansion of the IEP Learning Programmes. Going forward, we look forward to increased investment in ongoing learning opportunities, ensuring that employability professionals are equipped with the necessary skills to navigate the complexities of their roles effectively.

Stepping Into Next Year

2023 has been a year of growth, achievements, and navigating through policy changes in the employability sector. As we step into the year ahead, the IEP remains dedicated to its mission of fostering a community of skilled and dedicated practitioners committed to making a positive impact on people’s lives. Together, with global partners and a commitment to excellence, we look forward to shaping a brighter and more inclusive future for employability professionals and society as a whole.

By Scott Parkin FIEP, Group CEO, IEP

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