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supporting welfare to work providers

Adviser / trainer skills

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This section is aimed at those involved in a broad range of employability support for customers aged 50+ rather than professional career guidance practitioners (those engaged in the provision of career guidance as their main professional activity).

This broader role may involve you in providing a mix of support interventions

  • Identification of career aspirations and needs
  • Information provision on the labour market
  • Training interventions, mentoring or coaching
  • Career advice and information
  • Practical job seeking skills support
  • Employer engagement
  • Job matching

While all these involve skill sets for working across customer groups, you will need to consider how to apply them to support your 50+ customers.

Experienced practitioners working with the 50+ age group have stressed that adviser skills are key and that the quality of provider employees are at the heart of success.

They emphasise the importance of having:

  • the right personal qualities
  • a genuine interest in working with people
  • an ability to develop good rapport, patience and empathy.

The first case study describes what one provider looks for in selecting staff to work with the 50+; the second how another explored the benefits of 'streaming' an older customer group to help the 'harder to help'. The third case study describes how a provider trains advisers to work with the 50+.

Case study 1 (Age Concern North Tyneside)

Adviser / trainer skills

At Age Concern North Tyneside we provide considerable support to those seeking employment who are aged 50+. While all staff have to have a Level 3 NVQ in Information, Advice and Guidance , that is where our pre-requisite qualification requirement ends. For us, personal skills and experience are just as important and are as much of a predictor of whether someone is going to be good at helping more mature people back into work. Will they be a good communicator and listener, for example, as this is really key to their success? Are they likely to patronise? Older people in particular are sensitive to this. It’s no good having someone who says “I know exactly how you feel” unless they really do which is rarely the case as this just serves to create a barrier between the person and adviser.

We like to have people with some experience of providing employment learning advice and guidance on both a one to one and group basis. We look for a certain degree of confidence and skill in being able to do this too.

Experience of working with other organisations and partners is also very important, and not just working with them either but really understanding what those partnership have to offer our customers – how they add value to our work. Being able to identify partners and then forge and sustain good links with them is of real value to us.

Knowing the barriers the 50+ jobseeker faces is also vital. These include the feelings of those who have been made redundant, what some of the health problems they may be experiencing are, how de-motivated many older jobseekers feel (many believing they are finished and of no use to anyone, which of course is very rarely the case).

Being able to motivate people with these feeling and get them thinking in a different and more positive way is essential. We have a course Mid Life Moves. This covers a range of topics not normally associated with job seeking such as healthy eating and living, motivation skills, confidence building as well as the more traditional job search, CV, and interview technique training. Staff need the skills to be able to deliver sessions on each of these topics. When we select staff we work very hard to get the people with just the right mix of experience and skills so they can carry out their role effectively.

Case study 2  (A4E)

Enhanced employment support 

A4E is a DWP prime contractor. Its Recruiting Older Workers (ROW) project explored the benefits of ‘streaming' an older customer group (unemployed people over the age of 50 in the Thames Valley) during the earlier stages of unemployment.

Customers were recruited mainly from Jobcentre Plus and the Probation Service and through direct marketing to support services across the sub-region, with a number of customers self-referring. All the customers were ‘voluntary' either because they wanted to get back into work or due to strong persuasion from advisers in Jobcentre Plus or other referral organisations.

Against a background of heavy demand for the service, the advisers, while supporting all their ROW customers, concentrated most of their effort on the ‘harder to help'. These included the low skilled, longer term unemployed, people with significant health problems and those with criminal records.

The advisers worked with Employer Partnership Officers who brokered job opportunities with employers. As a result of the recession, a large proportion of vacancies were in administration, but there was high demand also in security, driving, factory shift work and IT roles such as data entry.

Support included:

  • personalised assessments and individual action plans
  • identifying and helping overcome barriers to employment group and individual development sessions
  • identifying job opportunities
  • work experience placements (including voluntary work)
  • arranging accredited and non-accredited training (most often in information technology)
    and in work support and guidance for both the individual and the employer.

The key differences between this ‘streaming' approach and A4E's main services were:

  • an exclusive focus on the older customer group
  • advisers, coaches and recruitment staff with specialist knowledge and skills relating to this group
  • more flexibility, including the ability to spend more time with harder to help customers
  • and an in-work support model, including a strong element of advice, guidance and mentoring for those most at risk of ‘falling out of employment again'.

Case study 3 (Age UK Milton Keynes Employment Services)

Adviser training

When new advisers first come to us we tend to deliver training in bite-sized, two-hour sessions as we're keen not to overload them with information. We tell them about the service we offer, our funding, how the different things we do fit together so that they get a picture of how it all works, and what we are trying to achieve with our 50+ customers. Following on from this, we like to make sure our advisers fully understand the issues they may have. (See How to identify typical barriers and Finding work sections.)

A valuable training method we use is asking advisers to shadow experienced staff. Time and again, this has provided a really powerful technique. To make most use of it though, we meet with the adviser prior to one to one or group sessions with customers to tell them what we are planning to do. After the session we ask them to reflect on what was done and what went well and not so well. Once they gain confidence they take over some elements of the activity. Gradually we increase the number and complexity of those elements as they grow in confidence.

One of our advisers who has been with us over a year commented: "Shadowing my manager over a period exposed me to a variety of different customers and helped me to develop a broad range of knowledge and skills. This has enabled me to tailor support to individual customer needs. The over-50s were not a group I had worked with before and I have learned to understand and empathise with the particular problems they face in seeking employment."

We sometimes ask new advisers to be our ‘helpers' on our networking, interview, transferable skills, job clubs and CV writing courses. They help out and have the opportunity to take part in some of the activities. This gives them the chance to put it into practice what they have learnt.

We also ask our advisers to use the internet to identify possible jobs for specific customers as part of their training. It doesn't take long for them to understand some of the frustrations our customers experience when they fail to find jobs they are looking for. This gives them good insight into how our customers feel when using the internet to find work.

 

Disclaimer
This site is for help and information only. It is not meant as an authoritative guide. It is not meant as an authoritative statement of the law, and future changes in the law and other programmes and initiatives could make it less accurate at times. TAEN, the Department for Work and Pensions and the European Social Fund take no responsibility for your use of the information. You should always take professional advice on any specific legal or financial matter.