Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive, ERSA

Once a year my chairman sits in front of me and cries. This is not entirely my fault, in case you are wondering, rather the impact of some of the winners of the ERSA annual Employability Awards.

With the Awards now open for entries, I’m again looking forward to a fantastic evening surrounded by rather fabulous people. The event itself is great fun of course. 

It’s not high end glitz and it’s certainly not black tie, but it does provide a very special atmosphere to celebrate the achievements of individuals, teams and organisations who dedicate so much of their lives to helping others or, in the case of our Significant Achievement Award, overcoming pretty galling odds to change their own lives for the better.

Now in its sixth year, the reasons for the awards have changed a little, but not a lot.

Back in 2013, the employment support sector was in the eye of a storm. The Westminster government had commissioned some high profile and not always well thought through back to work schemes which grabbed the headlines and were sometimes (wilfully) misunderstood by journalists and politicians.

The result was that the great work of so many organisations, both in and outside publically commissioned schemes, was being obscured by headlines.

Employers were not always being aided to understand the role they could play to give people a second or third chance or the benefits that could bring to their business.

Frontline advisers, often working with people with a wide range of support needs as well as assets, did not feel valued.

And individual jobseekers too often didn’t see the role models who might inspire them to believe that they too could get that job, they too could enter that career and change their lives.

So we filled a void. We launched the awards and the entries appeared in droves.

Organisations and individuals were inspired, they learnt from each other and inspired ministers in turn, and we featured their case studies in the The Sun, The Daily Mirror and an array of other publications. 

Come 2018, the need to celebrate is just as important as ever.  We’re living in a fragmented landscape in terms of funding and programme support.  Unemployment is down, but need remains high. 

We’re ten years into austerity and many organisations are feeling the pinch as well as their clients.  Funding is tight and government is distracted by that B thing.  Frankly, in the face of all that, who doesn’t need a party?

So, this year’s awards are going to be the best yet. Sponsored by Clarion Futures, amongst a host of other lovely organisations committed to making a difference, we’re encouraging entries from the very best in class. 

We’re looking for the most innovative organisation or programme, the best disability employment support provider and the organisation making the most impact on youth. 

We want to see an array of entries in the large and small business categories and we want to cheer with the team of the year.  

More than ever we want to see entries on behalf of the most dedicated, effective frontline advisers and to celebrate the work of this year’s Lifetime Achievement winner - a title currently held by Tracy Fishwick of Transform Lives Company, and previously held by Teresa Scott of Kennedy Scott, rightly recognised in the New Year’s Honours List. 

And I want my chairman to meet those shortlisted for the Significant Achievement Award, the former jobseekers who inspire awe through the odds they have overcome in their journey into work.  And he will cry.

The deadline for award entries is 9 March.  Full details at here.  Don’t forget to enter. 

Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive, ERSA

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