Frontline Manager of the Year – Sponsored by The Institute of Employability Professionals

IEP is the only professional membership institute for the employability profession. It represents its members to key influencers and sets the standards for the profession.

IEP members have a commitment to their profession. They are leading experts in their field.

IEP has members all over the UK and the Republic of Ireland working for leading private, public and third-sector employers. The entry process ensures that members can demonstrate their professional standing.

Managers or team leaders who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to leading their frontline team to excellent performance and customer achievements

  • Louise Blanchard-Knight, Acorn Training
  • Louise Blanchard-Knight is a member of the LGBTQ2+ community and has been a business manager at Acorn Training since December 2021 based permanently at the Burton Training Centre. Louise is the business manager for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Restart Scheme Contract. Louise has supported and helped to drive the implementation of a recent recruitent drive to promote an inclusive work space for current employees and potential applicants joining Acorn Training’s growing business by adopting a more values-based recruitment. Louise has been on the hiring panel for many employment coach positions, she has worked with senior leaders to ensure that the job advert was amended text to become more inclusive. This has been met with positivity; attracting new LGBTQ+ candidates to Employment Coach roles. Louise has helped ensure that the interview process is safe and secure whereby individuals can discuss sexuality openly and freely. Since joining Acorn Training, Louise has hired two LGBTQ+ candidates into Employment Coach roles.
  • Rakhee Sahota, Business 2 Business UK
  • Joining Business 2 Business in 2002, Rakhee immediately became one of our top performing advisers on the DWP Ethnic Minority Outreach project. After gaining experience in other roles, she progressed to an adviser team leader role and rapidly impressed her team and SMT with her knowledge, insight and ability to motivate team members. Since then, Rakhee’s teams have secured 100%+ performance against the outcomes for every programme they have delivered, including the DWP Pathways to Work, Flexible New Deal, Work Programme and Restart Scheme. This consistent success is, in part derived from Rakhee’s ability to lead others; she is confident enough to take on challenging targets and is able to inspire and motivate others to join her. But Rakhee doesn’t stop at the required outcomes. Having grown up in the first community served by B2B, Rakhee always encourages and makes it possible for her adviser staff to go the extra mile to address participants’ wider needs. During mobilisation, Rakhee is very good at articulating the organisation’s vision, collaborating with colleagues to develop delivery solutions and embedded these solutions in ways of working. Thereafter, her enthusiasm and courage in adopting innovation ensures continuous improvement. She is also flexible and resilient in a crisis. Rather than being daunted by the Covid lockdown, Rakhee, as always led from the front and was a key enabler of B2B’s transformation, within 48 hours, from a wholly face to face to a wholly remote service, with no loss of quality. By nurturing others, Rakhee has built confidence, inspired endeavour and enabled the development of many of her staff, who now lead teams themselves; adopting the management approaches and strategies introduced by Rakhee. In this way, Rakhee has not just managed her teams, she has shaped the organisation; greatly enhancing its impact for participants and the community.
  • Gemma Morrison, Greenwich Local labour and Business (GLLaB), Royal Borough of Greenwich
  • The Royal Borough of Greenwich has a proud history of welcoming new communities, from refugees and migrants to those fleeing war and persecution, to support integration and access to services and information. The Council’s Job Brokerage service – Greenwich Local Labour and Business (GLLaB) supports all residents, including Syrian refugees, and more recently, people hosted from Afghanistan and those arriving from Ukraine. Building on this, the Council secured EU funding to deliver the ‘Asylum, Migration, and Integration Fund (AMIF) programme, which provided tailored support to unemployed people who are not citizens of the European Union, including those with NIL recourse to public funds, low skills, SOL needs and complex barriers to integration, compounded by the trauma many faced, having fled war-torn counties to seek refuge in the UK. Gemma Morrison, as Employment Programmes Manager, was responsible for delivering on aims to engage with 200 people, to achieve integration into the community and access to services, such as opening UK bank accounts, registering with GPs and getting housing and benefits advice. Gemma has worked at GLLaB for 17 years, demonstrating a passion for leading teams to deliver excellent outcomes through five successful employment support programmes. She successfully undertook virtual implementation and overhauled delivery from in-person to remote delivery, through unprecedented challenges. Although job outcomes were not an AMIF contractual requirement, she was determined to go the extra mile to ensure participants maximised support from the programme. With experience skills, alongside years of delivering employment programmes, Gemma commissioned and co-designed a bespoke ‘ESOL with Employability’ course and procured virtual job search sessions, as well as relentlessly engaged with other Council departments and community organisations, to increase referrals. Her team was upskilled to deliver interventions and support customers experiencing challenges around domestic violence and suicide. Ultimately, 107 people achieved integration outcomes, of which 28 secured employment in healthcare, hospitality, administration, and education. Achieving any job outcomes, let alone 28, is a testament to the commitment and additional support put in place by Gemma and her team, to surpass the programme aims of providing employability support, community integration and improving access to services.
  • Vicki Cross, Riverside Training
  • Vicki Cross, Employability Manager at Riverside Training in Lincolnshire, is an inspiring leader who is making a difference to people’s lives across the region. Vicki is leading a team at Riverside Training, which has developed its employability offer like never before. Under her stewardship, the organisation has gone from one which solely offered a range of courses aimed at improving so-called ‘soft skills’ to one which is directly helping people to find, secure and stay in sustainable employment. Vicki was instrumental in Riverside’s successful delivery of the Work and Health Programme provision, working in partnership with prime provider Shaw Trust. And during the coronavirus pandemic, the training provider landed the contract to deliver the Kickstart Scheme and helped their local job centre to be the leading gateway provider in the region. Vicki followed this success up with Riverside becoming a delivery partner on Jobs 22’s delivery of the Restart Scheme.
  • Joanne Spurgeon, Routes to Work, Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council
  • Joanne Spurgeon leads the Routes to Work Supported Employment Service, part of Tameside Council’s Economy, Employment and Skills team. Routes to Work is only a small team with 2 Employment Officers and 1 Support Officer and they achieve fantastic, inspired by Joanne’s passionate leadership. Joanne has a personal interest in supported employment, as her daughter is currently attending one of our SEND schools, and her long term aim is to ensure that all residents have equal opportunities to job roles alongside neurodiverse skills being recognised and celebrated. Her work has included numerous successes including the launch of a ‘reverse’ Jobs Fair where local jobseekers had the chance to showcase their skills and experience directly to employers, in a more comfortable environment than a traditional jobs fair (Press Releases ( A Neurodiversity group has also been created by Joanne within the council, aimed at providing a welcoming forum for neurodiverse employees as well as encouraging further neurodiversity particularly through our recruitment processes. There are many fantastic case studies of Routes to Work participants. A fantastic story is that of Jack, who has been supported by Joanne and the wider team for over two years Jack’s ‘purpose’ thanks to job scheme – Tameside Correspondent. Jack’s story benefits not just him and his employer but his wider family, his parents have recently been on holiday as a couple for the first time as they no longer need to worry about how Jack is spending his time. Joanne’s ethos, unlike support programmes with set criteria, is that someone is ‘work ready’ if they are interested in working. She provides confidence that her team are able to provide the support needed to help overcome other barriers. I find her drive and enthusiasm continually inspiring and therefore would like to nominate her for this award.
  • Darren Jones, Blackpool Council – nominated by G4S Employment Support Services
  • G4S would like to nominate Darren Jones from Blackpool Council for the ERSA employability Frontline Manager of the Year 2022. Blackpool Council have been a part of the G4S Supply Chain since 2017 delivering both ESF1420 and Restart Scheme contracts in Blackpool. Blackpool Council deliver services to local residents from their Healthworks building which is based in the heart of Blackpool and provides excellent facilities to meet the needs of customers not only to help them into sustainable employment but also to support their wider holistic needs. For as long as G4S has worked with Blackpool Council, Darren has led the employment team. His drive and passion to ensure that high quality services are delivered and his ability to inspire and motivate his team has enabled continually high levels of performance throughout this time. This has resulted in over 500 Blackpool long term unemployed residents with complex needs moving into work.
  • Rachel Robson, The Lakes College – nominated by G4S Employment Support Services
  • G4S would like to nominate Rachel Robson from the Lakes College for the ERSA employability Frontline Manager of the Year 2022. Rachel joined the Employability sector in July 2021 when she joined the Lakes College Restart Scheme team who are part of the G4S Supply Chain in Cumbria in the North West. Having no previous experience of the Sector, Rachel has been able to bring a fresh perspective to the challenges faced by customers and employers in the rural communities of Cumbria. By listening to the needs of employers and customers and working with her team and other local skills and employability providers has developed bespoke solutions to address the skills and behaviours needed to enable customers to enter into sustainable employment. Through doing this she has also established strong collaborative working for the future across the West Cumbria area.
  • Matt Woodward, Mental Health Matters
  • Matt brings a values-led, compassionate approach to his leadership that has seen his team flourish and become key members of their wider service. The model of working introduced by Matt has helped to ensure that clients receive tailored support which works to not only find or retain work but improve their understanding of their situation, their wellbeing and their resilience.
  • Adrian Nesbitt, Shaw Trust
  • Adrian and his team took over the delivery of an Individual Placement and Support Service (IPS) in Birmingham from an outgoing provider in April 2021. The key to IPS services is the relationship with the NHS Trusts, referrals are received from the Trusts and the delivery staff are located within the Trusts. From the start it became clear that the relationship with the previous provider and the NHS Trust had broken down. Adrian has worked extremely hard to rebuild the relationship with the eight sites across the NHS Trust. Adrian did this by addressing their concerns one by one and fulfilling each promise that was made, he reacted quickly to any barriers and highlighted the successes. Thanks to Adrian this relationship is now stronger than ever, this is evident by the sheer number of referrals being received as well as the integrated delivery. These combined are leading to excellent job starts and sustain figures for participants who are all receiving support from secondary care mental health hubs and live with severe and enduring mental health conditions.
  • Caoimhe McKenna, Hackney Works
  • Caoimhe manages Hackney’s Supported Employment (SE) team which supports residents with learning disabilities, autism and mental health conditions to gain and sustain paid employment. They provide very personalised support to residents with complex needs on their journey to employment. They help with CVs, job applications, preparing for interviews, accessing work trials, disclosing health conditions, reasonable adjustments and confidence building. The team regularly go the extra mile, for example, where required will accompany clients on their first day of work. Caoimhe has a caring, supportive nature with excellent interpersonal skills and doesn’t shy away from challenges. She learns fast and continually exceeds expectations as well as delivering over and above on contractual service requirements. She has built strong partnerships to enhance the service offer, shown passion for improving the well-being of residents and has been innovative in finding approaches to increase awareness on how to support people with disabilities, not just in the supported employment service but also Hackney-wide. She is highly committed to her work and to achieving good outcomes for clients. She works hard to motivate the team and has earnt respect amongst colleagues as a credible manager, with one staff member describing her as “brilliant at her job”. Another staff member said in the last 12 months, Caoimhe’s leadership has made a huge impact on the Council’s Supported Employment Service.