ERSA Employability Awards | Guide to writing a winning award entry

This blog brings together feedback from the judges in previous year based on their views of what makes a good award entry, plus some common traps to avoid.

General Feedback

  • Provide a strong summary highlighting your key selling points; explaining why you should win. The full entry is where you ‘seal the deal’.
  • Ensure that your entry addresses each of the key award criteria. You can use sub-headers which signpost to the judges how you are addressing each criterion.
  • Provide appropriate evidence that can be easily comparable and understood, even by someone without technical sector experience. This is likely to include clear information on the profile of jobseekers supported; plus, clear information on outcomes, such as the number starting work and those sustaining in work in each period.
  • Make sure you are entering your award for the right category by carefully reading each award criteria – sometimes judges have felt that entries would have been better received in a different category, e.g. entries relating to solid delivery being entered in the innovation category, when there is little evidence of innovation.
  • Try not to enter submissions into multiple categories, as this tends to dilute the effect it has on the judges.
  • Some submissions strayed away from employability and whilst they were good stories, they were not particularly suited to the ERSA Employability Awards.
  • There were several submissions which were clearly exceptional, but due to the fact the delivery was in its infancy, outcomes were difficult to gauge. The judges suggested in this instance that a re-entry next year might be the best approach, as there will be a greater set of data available to share.
  • Ensure the evidence submitted is relevant to the award category and not excessive.

Employer of the Year

  • The judges particularly liked organisations that demonstrated commitment to employability at several levels, including support for jobseekers outside the labour market to boost employability skills; plus hiring practices which supported a wide range of jobseekers to take up a variety of roles.
  • Judges wanted to see that responsible hiring practices were embedded across the business, however small.
  • Judges also liked it when there was evidence that people could progress on to a higher role with more responsibility within that company.
  • Judges also appreciated the diversity of a workforce and investment in the team.
  • Entries should show that work with jobseekers was entirely embedded across different elements of the business rather than linked to a small element of a corporate responsibility strategy or to a specific part of the business.
  • Judges wanted to see evidence that employers were working with the sector for more than purely business reasons (i.e. the commitment went beyond seeing employment support as a cost-effective hiring route).
  • Judges liked to see a strong element of sustainability with people moving into long term jobs with progression.
  • Judges wanted to see evidence of non-traditional hiring methods, recognising the range of jobseeker needs. This might include guaranteed interviews for certain jobseekers, e.g. those who might struggle with written forms.
  • In addition, judges were attracted to efforts by businesses to overcome systemic barriers to employment for some groups, such as ex-offenders.

Team of the Year

  • Judges were looking for an emphasis on a team working together to achieve delivery.
  • Focus was often simply on results and not how the team worked together to achieve them.

Team of the Year – Hardest Hit

  • Entrants needed to demonstrate clear high performance with this client group.
  • Judges liked it when the entry showed how the organisation was doing something special with this particular client group, creating a bespoke method of delivery.
  • It was felt to be important that entries showed the distance travelled of the people they worked with. Did they have particularly complex needs and were there opportunities for them to progress beyond low pay roles?
  • Judges liked entries which demonstrated a transformative effect on the hardest to reach client groups and had a sustained impact on those they helped.
  • Show what you offer that is truly innovative within the sector, leading the way with new ideas.
  • Entrants need to demonstrate clear high performance with this client group.
  • Show how the organisation is doing something special with this client group, creating a bespoke method of delivery.
  • It is important that entries show the distance travelled of the people worked with. Did they have particularly complex needs and were there opportunities for them to progress beyond low pay roles?
  • Judges liked entries which demonstrated a transformative effect on the hardest to reach client groups and had a sustained impact on those they helped.
  • Show what you offer that is truly innovative within the sector, leading the way with new ideas.
  • Entries also need to be able to show that the process is effective and scalable.

Team of the Year – Disability and Health

  • Of primary importance to the judges was that the entries demonstrated that organisations delivered exceptionally high performance for jobseekers with disabilities. As such, providing information on the profile of the jobseekers supported, easily understood performance metrics and, ideally, comparative information is very helpful.
  • Judges wanted to see a clear, bespoke model for working with disabled people that ideally could be scalable.
  • Judges liked organisations that reflected their support for disabled people in their own hiring practices.
  • Judges liked the idea of the continuous involvement of families.
  • Show what you offer that is truly innovative within the sector, leading the way with new ideas.

Community Partnership of the Year

  • All entries needed to show solid levels of performance, including clearly understandable metrics and comparable information if possible.
  • Judges also wanted to see a little something extra from the winners, a unique selling point that made them stand out from the other entries.
  • Innovation was also important in this category in showing the creativity and problem-solving ability of the partner organisation.
  • Judges appreciated seeing a partner’s delivery vision reflect the needs of the local economy.

Frontline Adviser of the Year

  • The most important element was felt to be strong evidence that this was an exceptional adviser who was delivering strong performance. Being clear about who was being supported and why this support was exception was essential.
  • Judges often liked stories where the adviser had overcome their own personal difficulties which had informed their support for jobseekers. However, this was not essential.
  • They also liked entries where there was evidence that the adviser had created or developed their own programme of support, innovating whilst on the job to improve performance.
  • Evidence of endorsement from colleagues and/or jobseekers/employers was also important in this category.
  • The judges appreciated those who enabled their organisation to grow through their own commitment to going the extra mile.

Significant Achiever of the Year

This is a particularly difficult category to judge and there is often a very personal element to the judging of this category in that certain stories resonate with different people. However, entries that stood out:

  • The judges were particularly moved by those who had overcome a variety of difficulties and barriers to employment and had shown their commitment to moving into work.
  • Judges also liked a story where there was evidence that the individual had progressed from their initial role after moving into employment.
  • Judges also felt it wasn’t imperative that the nominee’s new role was within the sector.

35 years of evolution keep Seetec ahead of the game

John Baumback low res.jpg

Employment, skills and rehabilitation specialist Seetec marks its 35th anniversary this month. Since the company was founded in Essex in 1984 offering computer skills training, the landscape for employment, skills and rehabilitation providers has undergone seismic change. Group MD John Baumback, a former apprentice with the company, knows more than most the need for innovation and to embrace change.

Agility is the key to Seetec’s success. Working in the fast and constantly changing world of employment and skills, the company has adapted quickly to seize new opportunities. Starting in business as an IT pioneer, Seetec offered computer and software engineering skills training when the digital revolution was in its infancy.  The company branched into writing and selling software, tapping new markets such as GP practices and healthcare providers.

Group Managing Director John Baumback embodies Seetec’s adaptability and flexibility. Starting with the fledgling business as an apprentice a month after it was established, he progressed to become a trainer, software developer, and even ran forklift truck training on his way to becoming IT Director. When Seetec won the contract to run community rehabilitation services in Kent, Surrey and Sussex and opened a new Justice Division, John became its Managing Director. This fleetness of foot, from Group MD throughout the senior team, is what keeps Seetec ahead of the game. The company experienced seismic growth when it won three Government contracts for the Work Programme and transformed to become a major provider of employment services. From an £18 million a year business 20 years ago, Seetec has seen exponential growth, increasing turnover by a factor of ten and, with the acquisition of West Country-based disability support provider Pluss earlier this year, seeing staff numbers rise to 2,400.

From a small Essex-based organisation, Seetec now provides services across the country, and has expanded into the Republic of Ireland, delivering JobPath since 2015 and helping more than 25,000 people into full-time and part-time work. It hasn’t always been plain sailing and the toughest part for John has come when changes to Government contracts have meant making staff redundant. “I’ve grown up with the business and there have been some massive challenges, making changes we didn’t want to make,” he said. “It’s been vital to practice what we preach and place our people at the heart of our business, supporting and investing in them to take responsibility for their own lifelong learning.” This commitment to its people has seen Seetec achieving the Gold Investors in People Award in 2016 and 2018, as well as the IiP’s Health and Wellbeing award, which recognises best practice to promote physical, psychological and social wellbeing.

John said: “We have constantly had to change the way we do things and ensure we do things the right way. We have come under a huge amount of scrutiny from commissioners. “Our staff have had to adapt to significant changes of gear. It’s very easy to talk about embracing change, but experiencing it is very different. “To deliver current changes across our three pillars of employability, skills and justice we have gone out to recruit a really strong senior team of passionate people who want to make a difference in our role of improving lives.” The employment profile of Seetec’s customers has changed radically since the days of high unemployment in the 1980s. The organisation now helps people with complex needs, some facing major barriers, including both mental and physical health issues, in being supported towards employment. Apprenticeships too have been transformed with the introduction of the Levy and new Standards. Seetec has focused on industries ranging from aviation and logistics to broadcasting and engineering, aiming to add value to businesses – from large corporates to SMEs – by equipping staff with new skills to meet skills shortages and address future workforce challenges.

John acknowledges there is still a long way to go to convince individuals and business leaders of the value of vocational and lifelong learning – although he says Degree Level apprenticeships are a major step in the right direction. Seetec is well positioned to thrive for the next 35 years, embracing change and new opportunities. John concludes: “Primarily we’re a people business and recognise that our people are our greatest asset. “We’ve got people in the business with that flexibility and ability to adapt to what is needed.”