Paul has spent most of his career in the employability sector including 13 years with Ingeus, eventually leading its employability business across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, before joining Triage in 2019.
He says: “Employment support providers play a pivotal role in helping people at a time of need and ERSA represents everything that’s great about the sector – the sheer diversity of organisations and the collective knowledge they’ve gained. My experience means that I can see things from the perspective of most of our members and represent their views, the challenges they face and the solutions they bring.”
Director of Business Development, Seetec Pluss
Vice Chair of the ERSA Board
Kirsty is an accomplished senior leader with significant experience across both commercial and operational delivery, specialising in public services markets. Creative and solutions focused, Kirsty is passionate about driving social innovation and development and supporting the growth and empowerment of communities and individuals. Possessing proven financial management skills, she has a keen commercial awareness and an ability to analyse and control expenditure. I am valued for my ability to help the business distil complex opportunities and lead multidisciplinary teams on projects needing both quantitative and qualitative technical expertise. A networker by nature, Kirsty relishes cultivating and sustaining successful partnerships to support delivery, integration and innovation. Quality focussed, committed to continuous improvement of service delivery and ensure service excellence, strong governance and information/security standards are understood and embedded throughout direct delivery and supply chains.
Managing Director – Employability, Shaw Trust
Former ERSA Chair, specialisms include VCSE, Disability Employment and Social Value.
Richard has worked in the employment services and skills sector since 1993, delivering every major government contract from New Deal to Work and Health Programme. He started his career supporting and advising jobseekers.
He says: “I believe access to good work should be available to everyone. Being part of the sector that makes that happen is important to me and personally rewarding. ERSA gives a collective voice to drive change, innovation and success, which leads to more people accessing work. I bring a unique view from a charity that operates as a prime contractor for national and local government.”
Director, Belina Consulting Ltd
Liz has spent 20 years in the employability sector, is former CEO of lone parent charity Gingerbread and worked on the New Deal for Lone Parents. In 2022 she won ERSA’s outstanding contribution to the sector award.
She says: “I believe women’s economic empowerment is a key driver to equality, and that our sector offers diverse ways to support women to move forward. ERSA has an institutional memory of the development of employability that helps us improve what we do. I bring to the Board commitment to the needs of specialist organisations and to supporting women.”
Head of Employability, Skills and Enterprise, Serco Ltd
Colm has held senior jobs in the healthcare and outsourcing sectors, initially in finance and commercial roles, developing into operational and general management positions.
He says: “It’s the chance to make a difference – at scale – that motivates me to work in the employability sector. Plus linking vocational skills with employability so people can secure sustainable employment. ERSA is the only organisation that represents the whole sector, giving it a unique voice to influence policy. I bring experience to the Board of a large-scale provider of services to the public sector in the UK and abroad.”
Vanda de Freitas
Head of Work and Health Programmes, Blackpool Council, representing public sector providers and Individual Placement and Support on the ERSA Board
Vanda worked in Further and Higher Education before moving into employment services with Connexions Lancashire. She was seconded to Blackpool Council to set up the adult employment team, Positive Steps into Work.
She says: “To be part of this sector you must believe that meaningful daytime activity, paid or unpaid, is vital for people to thrive and feel part of their community. Local Authorities and the private sector share common issues and restrictions around public sector delivery, and I can provide insight into how delivery fits into local areas on the ground.”
Safaraz Ali (Saf)
CEO of Pathway Group and Founder of Multicultural Alliance & Awards, Festival of Apprenticeships
Since founding Pathway Group 22 years ago Saf has championed social mobility. He founded the Multicultural Apprenticeship Alliance & Awards to recognise the under-representation of BAME communities in apprenticeships.
He says: “ERSA is the voice of the sector – campaigning and influencing strategic policy to support jobseekers and low earners. In addition, its role is to drive best practice and be a support network for providers. I bring strategic insight and an operational perspective with the experience of setting up and growing a social enterprise business that has more than 130 employees, delivering in the skills and employability sectors.”
CEO, Twin Group
Caroline’s and Twin’s history in the sector began supporting UK assimilation for asylum seekers and groups like ex-offenders and families with multiple challenges. Twin has now moved into major employability programmes such as the Restart Scheme.
She says: “The sector fulfils a genuine societal need so, for me, it’s a source of personal fulfilment and business opportunity. Its work is important politically, socially and economically yet, like other areas of public expenditure, must compete for political attention and budget. ERSA gives the sector a collective voice to Government policy makers about its needs and its value.”
Group Director of Business Development, The LTE Group
Colin’s career spans employment-related services. For the last decade he has worked in business development in large public, private, and third sector organisations, focusing on employment, education, skills, justice, and youth.
He says: “By championing our sector, ERSA helps create a more inclusive and prosperous society. It engages policymakers and stakeholders to make the economic case for the difference our services make, fosters a collaborative environment among members and is a hub for updates on policy, funding and research. To this I bring a practical view of what works in the complex world of employability.”
CEO Employment Services, Ingeus
Julie has worked in employment services for more than 20 years as well as the disability sector and as Director of Corporate Services in a large community organisation.
She says: “I’m a passionate advocate of employment for all and believe in contributing actively to our sector through board directorship, so I can be a voice for our members and ensure the organisation meets their needs. ERSA is important in making our sector sustainable and professional and, through my experience including the Work and Health Programme, JETS and the Restart Scheme, I believe I can make a positive contribution.”
CEO, Twining Enterprise, specialising in mental health and employment, in particular IPS delivery, on the ERSA Board.
Oli began his career as a stockbroker before moving to change-making work for organisations including TimeBank, Save the Children International, the United Nations and the Cabinet Office. He has written on innovative approaches to individual, team, organisational and community development through Action Inquiry.
He says: “I believe everyone should be able to enjoy the benefits that work provides, but also access support in times of difficulty without disruption. I want everyone, whatever their circumstances, to be fully accepted members of their community and ERSA works towards achieving this.”
Head of Strategic Partnerships & External Projects, The Growth Company
Naomi has worked in the sector for nearly 15 years and is responsible for the integration and stakeholder engagement for employment, health and justice programmes in the North of England as well as managing bespoke projects such as the United for Ukraine campaign.
She says: “I’m passionate about creating equitable opportunities for those who are under-represented in the labour market, and I believe ERSA is important as the voice of our sector, lobbying and creating change. I bring passion and knowledge to the Board, being able to speak as a subcontractor and a prime provider of services.”
Strategy and Solutions Director, PeoplePlus UK
James has worked in senior business development and operational roles in the welfare to work sector, including employability, skills, justice and youth, for organisations including Capita, Ingeus and G4S.
He says: “The programmes I have worked on have helped improve the lives of some of the most disadvantaged people in society by gaining sustainable work, increasing their self-worth and confidence and, in many cases, lifting them and their families out of abject poverty. I bring an innovative outlook to ERSA, drawing on skills from ten years in banking and 19 years in our sector.”
Dr Mohammed Ali OBE
Founder and Chief Executive, QED Foundation, specialising in ethnic minority issues on the ERSA Board
Mohammed is an award-winning advisor and campaigner for race and faith issues. He established Bradford-based QED in 1990 and was awarded an OBE for services to ethnic minorities in 2001. His varied career includes membership of the Ethnic Minority Employment Stakeholder Group and the Earned Citizenship Strategic Advisory Group.
He says: “If we are to create a truly equal, fair, and cohesive society, we have to ensure ethnic minority issues are at the heart of public policy. One organisation can only do so much, but collectively ERSA supports government, businesses and public and third sector organisations to work together to create opportunities for all.”
Managing Director, G4S Employment Support Services
Samantha has a long history of supporting vulnerable people in society through her 20 years working in local government, then the employability sector. With first-hand knowledge of prime provider delivery, she is also a passionate advocate for smaller specialist organisations contributing to national programmes.
She says: “ERSA is the only voice for the employability sector which has a positive and direct link to commissioners, and is in the room when key decisions are being discussed. This is important for those member organisations, especially smaller and supply chain providers, who don’t have that relationship with commissioners. My experience ensures I am not only there to represent Primes, but also smaller organisations who would be unable to deliver in any significant volume without the model.”