Glenn departs very proud of the successes delivered by Skills for Employment
In the New Year, Glenn Robinson will leave his job as Skills for Employment Manager at Warwickshire County Council after five years in the role. Here he reflects upon those years and the progress that the council, working closely with employers, education-providers and partner organisations, has made on skills issues facing businesses in the 21st century.
Glenn, you have been Skills for Employment manager for WCC for five years. Have you enjoyed your time in the role?
I’ll have been in the role for five years and one day when I leave on January 6. I’ve really enjoyed it as I’ve been able to see first-hand the impact the Skills for Employment programme has had on our secondary schools and colleges. In my previous education roles in the civil service and at a national executive agency I was two or three layers away from the ‘chalk-face’ where the really important stuff happens.
For example, just last month, we funded an NHS careers workshop in Nuneaton when 100 Year Nine and Ten pupils from six schools got to use a range of medical equipment including an ECG machine and Ultrasound scanner.
My career started as a secondary school teacher and has ended working with secondary schools so it’s come full circle. Oh - and when I taught it really was a chalk-face as we still used blackboards and dusters!
What are the schemes/developments that have given you most satisfaction?
In the past five years we have awarded £3,000 annual grants worth more than £500,000 to schools and colleges. And we’ve awarded more than £1 million to large, innovative projects where business and education have collaborated to achieve a major change. Both types of grant have had a big impact.
The smaller grants have achieved great things like providing one-to-one careers advice sessions for pupils at most risk of not being in employment, education or training (NEET) when they leave school at 16. During the past five years the number of 16 and 17-year-olds who are NEET has reduced by more than two thirds.
At the other end of the spectrum the £40,000 grant we awarded to Aston Martin and the Young Engineers Academy enabled the establishment of a new talent pipeline, the introduction of Degree Apprenticeships and a switch from recruiting nationally to locally.
Warwickshire County Council's Skills Conference has become an important annual event - have you found businesses, employers and education-providers receptive?
At each of the five conferences we have run there have been more than 100 managers from businesses, schools and colleges. It’s been incredibly helpful to get them together to forge new relationships and discuss how to improve the employability skills of young people. The businesses who have attended are the ones with the vision to see how working with the education sector can help them recruit in the medium to long-term.
Skills and recruiting issues are not going to go away are they - but you leave with plenty of work ongoing at the council to help confront those issues?
The Economy & Skills team that I am leaving works on a much broader range of skills-related activity than when I joined five years ago. For example, our promotion and support for apprenticeships at all levels up to degree is really strong and it’s no coincidence that the number of school-leavers going into apprenticeships has grown significantly year on year, as has the volume of young people taking up degree apprenticeships.
Early next year the Skills for Employment programme is investing £40,000 in a programme called My World of Work which will provide hundreds of Year 10 pupils from schools across the county with opportunities to work with businesses from several sectors to discover what it’s like to work in a wide range of roles. In January 2020 the council will launch a new all-age careers strategy for residents and businesses which will enable people to find new jobs or progress in their current role, as well as helping businesses to recruit.
What is the message you would send out to employers and education-providers as they think about the future?
Come and get involved! We need ten times as many businesses around the county to come forward to work with local schools and colleges if young people are going to get experience of the workplace and develop the understanding of the world of work that employers wish to see.
To make this happen, schools and colleges need to dedicate resource to engaging businesses and nurturing those relationships over many years. All of this takes a lot of effort but the rewards are high.
What next for you?
I’m semi-retiring but will take a month or two off before deciding on my next step. I’m sure it’ll be in the education sector where I’ve spent my whole career. I don’t want to be tied down to a rigid routine so private English tuition to GCSE and ‘A’ level is an option. In the meantime I will miss dealing with all the great people I have met during my time here - and particularly my colleagues in Economy & Skills who really know their stuff and work so hard to support the county's business community in so many ways.