A candidate first has an employment readiness assessment to see if they are suitable for the programme. If it is felt someone is not ready to engage on a structured programme they will be signposted to other learning and training services.
The assessment also establishes how much training a candidate needs. If necessary, they will attend training with Framework, or otherwise, be matched to a work placement of 3 months within Framework or with another partner agency.
If a candidate is assessed as needing training two 9 week courses are offered. The first is in personal development, and the second in employability. Training is also offered in literacy to level 2, maths and ICT for work.
Upon completion of the work placement or training a candidate is reassessed. If they are successful at this stage they will receive employability case work support looking at things like benefits advice, applications and interview skills and an introduction into working in the voluntary sector.
Candidates then go on to the WISE traineeship – a real job at Framework! Real wages, 9 month initial contract. The traineeship includes in-work financial advice, manager/team induction, support and on the job training.
Funding and development
Framework developed the Wise traineeship as part of a bid to the Learning & Skills Council.
Testament to Framework’s can-do approach is that they received notification their bid had been successful in June 08 and were delivering the traineeship by August! In designing the WISE programme Framework calculated the number of vacancies it expected to arise and bid for that number of traineeships. The majority of these positions are in frontline services. The funding from LSC pays £5500 per job if all the following stages are complete:
1) engagement in the programme, 2) start course, 3) get a job, 4) 13 weeks in the job completed
Framework are also taking advantage of the JCP scheme that pays £1000 for each new employee who was previously on JSA for 6 months or more.
Developing the training
WISE training is frontloaded, beginning with two 9 week courses – in personal development and employability. Training is also available in numeracy, literacy and ICT.
The training covers CV writing, health and safety, team working, personal development, assertiveness, motivation skills, communication skills, professional boundaries and confidentiality. It includes an introduction to being a support worker at Framework including understanding a payslip. The programme has been refined as a result of input and evaluation from the trainees. For example; fewer handouts, and more context of the learning. Trainees were not averse to learning anger management techniques for example, it just helped to have the reasons behind this made more explicit (working in a difficult environment can be stressful – how to control this stress in ourselves and in our dealings with others). After the training course, WISE students then go on to a volunteer placement at Framework.
Ongoing references and CRB checks
A reference is compiled from the beginning of the process – with input from ACE workers, tutors, volunteer placement supervisors. This reference identifies an individual’s areas of strength/weakness and can be used as a starting point for a training plan throughout the scheme. Everyone on the scheme submits a CRB form in the early stages, to ensure that they are received back by the time an individual is ready to go on to work.
Volunteer placements – flexibility and support
Volunteer placements last 3 months, or longer if required. There is a volunteer coordinator who oversees this element. The volunteer coordinator also has responsibility for external or community volunteers as well as police, nursing and social work students. Framework have a lot of volutneers, which in some ways makes expanding the scheme easy, but equally with could risk overload and lack of buy in from staff teams. Good communication and teams seeing the benefits of service user volunteers have overcome this potential issue.
Framework have learnt that it is important to get people into volunteer roles as soon as possible after completing the training to maximise the gains made. The Assessment and Case (ACE) worker continues to work with each WISE trainee until halfway through the volunteer placement when the employment mentor takes over. Framework don’t place trainees in night work, as there is not the same support available as in other frontline work.
When someone successfully completes the training programme, and is successful in their volunteer placement their name is added to the graduate list. Graduates on the list are matched to vacancies as they arise – taking into account location, type and hours of work, personal competencies etc. The Employment mentor matches the graduate to the opportunity and it is agreed with the HR department that they then have 5 days to contact the graduate identified and offer them the job. The applicant will fill in the application form, submit references (collated throughout the training programme from tutors. Support workers etc) and their completed CRB. They will visit the project where the vacancy is located and meet the manager.
If all goes well a start date is agreed and the person’s employment mentor supports them through the transition to work – informing benefits offices etc. in many cases people are able to access back to work benefits such as a job grant and tax credits. If more than one graduate is identified as being suitable for the vacancy a competitive interview will be held.
The programme has a team leader, half of whose salary is paid by the LSC contract. Framework also employ an Employer Engagement Manager to broker opportunities with external agencies and businesses.
New recruits join Framework at 90% of the advertised salary and for WISE graduates this is 80% for the first 9 months. Upon completion of their probationary stage mainstream employees receive backdated pay and move up to 100% salary. For WISE graduates this occurs after 9 months when they interview competitively for the job. If they are successful they then go up to 90% salary and the system is the same as for all new employees.
Before implementing the WISE programme senior staff at Framework held a Management Development Day – explaining the whos, whys, hows and wherefores about the Wise programme. This gave an opportunity for staff to ask questions and raise concerns. Minutes of this meeting were published on the staff intranet. For teams that had particular queries or concerns Clare made herself available to visit teams individually and facilitate a discussion. A lot of work was put into getting Operations managers on board and well informed, so they could support their service managers.
Clare says there was surprising little resistance from staff – she had been prepared for more. The general feeling from staff seemed to be “great, it’s about time!”
Framework didn’t have to change any policies or procedures to welcome former service user employees. The Deputy CE was a fantastic advocate of the scheme, and it was included in the corporate plan but overall the push came from middle management.
Claire says it is important that such a scheme be seen as cost-neutral to an organisation, and that trainees must form part of the core staff establishment. Some £3000 is saved on each role that trainees fill, as compared with recruiting externally in the first place. This sum is reinvested into staff time to allow for training and support of trainees. There haven’t been any issues around sickness or disciplinaries concerning trainees.
For more information on the work of Framework see http://www.frameworkha.org/pages/eve.html