From education to employment

ERSA Awards 21 – Award finalists rise to ‘The Covid Employability Challenge’


Supported by lead sponsors Cognisoft and Clarion Futures, the awards highlight the unsung employability heroes of the past year.

Now in their ninth year, the ERSA awards celebrate best practice in the employment support sector and demonstrate the hard work and dedication of those working to improve the lives of jobseekers, communities, and the wider workforce. This year over 200 entries were received from private, voluntary, social enterprise and public sector organisations across the UK.

This year’s theme recognises ‘The Covid Employability Challenge’ and the shortlist includes a wide variety of organisations and individuals who have delivered exceptional service and support to disadvantaged groups during the pandemic.

The 11 award categories highlight the range of work being undertaken to help people gain employment, from stand-out advisers demonstrating extraordinary commitment in a frontline role to teams supporting individuals and communities hardest hit by the pandemic, as well as the exceptional jobseekers and learners they support.

Elizabeth Taylor, ERSA CEO says:

“We have been overwhelmed by the response to the ERSA Employability Awards and the truly inspiring work of all those who have gone above and beyond in what has been an incredibly challenging year.

“Thank you to all those who entered – you should be incredibly proud of your achievements – and a huge well done to all those who have made the shortlist. We can’t wait for the winners to be revealed at the end of November.”

Also open to non-ERSA members, the employability awards recognise any organisation involved in the sector. This year’s entries were judged by Associate Professor Jo Ingold, Department of Management, Deakin University; Sam Windett, Deputy Director, Learning and Work Institute; Jagdeep Soor, Programme Manager at the Centre for Ageing Better; and Gill Holmes, Director, Contract Management and Partner Delivery, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The winners will be announced during a hybrid networking event with live stream and viewing parties around the UK on Thursday 25 November.

The full list of finalists

Frontline Adviser of the Year -sponsored by the IEP: Employment advisers and job coaches demonstrating exceptional commitment in a frontline role.

  • Sandeep Koltharkar, Business 2 Business
  • Vikki Jackson, The Lennox Partnership – nominated by Capita Business Services
  • Morag Notman, Fedcap Employment
  • Vikki Foster, Money Sorted
  • Gaynor Wheeler, Recro Consulting
  • Jack, St Helens Chamber
  • Victoria Hague, The Growth Company

Frontline Manager of the Year -sponsored by Alderwood: Frontline managers or team leaders who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to leading their frontline team to excellent performance and customer achievements.

  • Sharyn Wall, Aspire Sussex
  • Darren Jones and Mairi Fraser, Blackpool Council
  • Julie Howells, Derventio Housing Trust
  • Steve Ricketts, Recro Consulting
  • Jack Cox, Sussex Community Development Association (SCDA)

Employer of the Year – sponsored by Arriva: Employers showing exceptional commitment by partnering with providers in their area, supporting disadvantaged and long-term unemployed jobseekers.

  • Arcus FM – nominated by Catch22
  • Haven – nominated by Seetec Pluss
  • Marks and Spencer, nominated by The Prince’s Trust
  • Borough Food Coop – nominated by Unity Works

Significant Achiever of the Year – sponsored by The Digital College: Organisations delivering employability programmes nominating exceptional jobseekers and learners they support.

  • Theo Thomas-Afonso, nominated by Fedcap Employment
  • Jolene Thompson-Carney, nominated by Offploy CIC
  • Gabriel, nominated by Recro Consulting
  • Bethany Carroll, nominated by Talent Finder
  • Joshua Wareham, nominated by Unity Works
  • Samantha Cuffy, nominated by Women’s Work Lab

Team of the Year – Disability and health – sponsored by Triangle Consulting – creators of the outcomes star: Frontline teams providing disability and wellbeing services, including mental health support.

  • St. Joseph’s Approved Premises Bike Project, nominated by Career Connect
  • The Case-UK Mental Health in-work Support team, Case-UK Limited
  • Gloucestershire County Council  
  • Papworth Trust     
  • South Yorkshire Housing Association       
  • Steps To Work       
  • The Action Group 
  • Twining Enterprise’s Employment Specialist Team – Disability and Health       

Team of the Year – Hardest hit – sponsored by NCFE: Frontline teams supporting individuals and communities hardest hit by the pandemic. 

  • ‘All About Me’ Team, Aspire Sussex
  • The Autism Project, CareTrade Charitable Trust
  • YES Project Team, YES Project

Team of the Year – Innovation – sponsored by Simpact CIC: Teams helping us remotely connect. 

  • The GRoW App Team, Belina Consulting
  •  The Disability Information Bureaux (DIB) – nominated by New Leaf Cheshire
  • Reaching People – Moneywise Plus Project
  • Saffron Interactive
  • Reducing Parental Conflict Team, Twin Group
  • Team Pie, Unity Works
  • West Lothian Council, Support Employment Service

Team of the Year – Crisis management – sponsored by Transform Lives Company: Frontline teams providing essential and or emergency pandemic support

  • Fedcap Scotland (East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway)
  • Newground Together
  • Plus Dane Housing
  • Royal Borough of Greenwich – Greenwich Local Labour and Business

Team of the Year – Hidden heroes – sponsored by Care Plus Group: Working behind the scenes to enable services

  • Hertfordshire JETS, Catch22 and Jobs 22
  • Fedcap Employment
  • Recro Consulting

Community Partnership of the Year – sponsored by entitledto: Organisations working together to form partnerships that support local communities already furthest from the labour market. 

  • Belina Grow, Successful Mums and The Write Time – nominated by 3SC (3rd Sector Consortium)
  • MOU initiative: Trust for London, City Bridge Trust and the Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG) – nominated by Action West London
  • Kickstart Housing Partnership – nominated by Clarion Futures
  • SCDA and IT for You at Home – nominated by Sussex Community Development Association – SCDA
  • Essex Jobcentre Plus – nominated by Unity Works

Judged separately from the other categories, a truly inspiring individual who has made an Outstanding Contribution to the Sector will also be announced on Thursday 25 November. Sponsored by Recro Consulting

Dates for the diary

25 November                 Awards Ceremony – hybrid networking event with live stream and viewing parties around the UK

26 November                     Employability Day, Part 2 – social media campaign highlighting this year’s winners

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