Amanda Ryalls, Marketing and Intelligence Director at Skills for Justice gives a retrospective on the importance of skills during a time of change.
2012 has been an extremely challenging time for employers and employees within the sectors we serve with change of a scale and pace never seen before. As the Sector Skills Council supporting Justice, Legal Services, Local & Central Government, Fire & Rescue and the Armed Forces of the UK, we have witnessed firsthand the requirement to continue to deliver a quality service despite significant cuts to budgets. Having to meet the challenges presented, our sectors have embraced skills and workforce development to find new and different ways of doing things, supporting employees to work creatively with their colleagues.
We have been very successful in working with our employers to secure significant funds from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills to support innovative skills activity as budgets are squeezed. The focus has been to support this essential sector to both rise to today’s challenges and be in good shape for tomorrow, across the four UK nations. Without support we would not have been able to carry out the extraordinary work and seize the opportunity to ensure employees and leaders within the sector have the skills they need.
The squeeze on budgets has not been the only driver for change. In working to reduce reoffending the National Offender Management Service has seen the introduction of ‘Payment by Results (PbR)’ and working prisons as a means to help offenders to develop economically viable skills and enhance their work ethic in support of successful reintroduction back into the community. Our client work has focused on bringing the various service providers together to share and develop resources so that employees have the employment related skills they need to succeed with this.
The police have seen the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners, giving greater power at the local level to influence the priorities and quality of policing, and the emergence of the new College of Policing. We have supported both of these developments through the employer-led standards and competency frameworkwhich are in place to ensure employees understand ‘what good looks like’ in terms of the roles they are asked to play.
Interoperability, that is employers and employees working more effectively together in dealing with national and local incidents, has been a major driver for our colleagues in Fire and Rescue and Police. Working with them and the Home Office will continue throughout 2013 as we draw from the successes of the past to develop effective collaborative learning resources to support resilience.
Working with new clients across Local Government, Armed Forces, and Legal Services has presented new challenges:
We have worked and will continue to work with Local governmentas they deliver public sector reform and find innovative ways to empower local communities to contribute more to making and shaping a safe ‘Big’ society.
With the loss of front line personnel across the Armed Forces, we are working with the four Armed Forces of the UK on two key priorities: working more closely to ensure that the world class skills training which service personnel receive in service is more easily recognised and valued by employers in the wider community, so that they can find sustainable employment as they return to civilian life; and working to ensure that the reservist force is equipped with the skills and training required to be able to perform effectively.
The introduction of Alternative Business Structures within Legal Services alongside the recent Legal Services Act has presented an opportunity for us to work with some of the largest law firms in the UK. With them and other key stakeholders, we have developed an apprenticeship schemewhich will provide a viable alternative route into and through the legal services sector. In so doing, we are helping the sector to recruit from a more diverse pool and to deliver service to the public at a more competitive rate whilst retaining quality.
In Northern Ireland we are developing a joint curriculum for Desertcreat, the new joint college to service Police, the Prison Service and the Fire and Rescue service. We are also working to support activity to help SMEs reduce their vulnerability and the cost of crime to their business.
In Wales we are working with the Police to develop and pilot the very first apprenticeship for a serving Police Officer which, if successful, will signal the way for Police across the UK to recruit from a more diverse pool and equip officers with the skills they need in role.
We are supporting the programme of Scottish Police Reform which will establish a national police service and are developing a policing professional framework. This will enable and facilitate integration and transition across the new unitary service. It will apply the knowledge and experience gained from developing a similar model in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with a reflection, however, on the differences in approach to policing that exist in Scotland. This ‘knowledge transfer’ will enable the framework to progress much faster and will result in real savings in terms of time and development costs.
In support of victim centred justice we are also developing standards and a competence assessment frameworkto ensure that the highly important role of the volunteer is supported, recognised and understood.
As the year comes to a close we look forward to 2013. We will continue to voice the opinions of our employers and keep training and skills at the top of the agenda, so that they can continue to keep us all safe and provide the environment we need for individuals and business to thrive in the UK.