Practice worth sharing
Employer Pledge, Conwy Borough Council
In May 2004, Natalie Williams took up post as corporate training and development manager at Conwy Borough Council. Natalie’s predecessor had already made enquiries into the Employer Pledge and Natalie picked this up again, keen to address the basic skills needs of staff within the authority.
A partnership arrangement was piloted with the Council’s local college, Coleg Llandrillo. Initially employees of Conwy Council attended a prescribed Work Skills course at the college with 6-8 people per course but the set programme made it very difficult to tailor the learning to the different departments such as Highways or Environmental Services, each of which had different needs.
A more individualised work service was developed with more one-on-one attention from tutors as well as workplace visits. For the past year the council has used this more personal model and is satisfied that it works well for the specific needs of some of the learners.
How does it work?
In devising the structure of their basic skills provision, Natalie and her colleagues looked at what other public sector organisations had done and took the best examples. Their key aims were to ensure that all relevant corporate policies had basic skills integrated into them and that basic skills requirements were seen as a training need, equal in importance to all other training needs within departments.
Now basic skills have been integrated into the corporate induction programme, right across the Authority, and Natalie’s colleague is in the process of producing a Workforce Development Plan with basic skills an important element.
As the Employer Pledge action plan was developed, awareness raising sessions were held for line managers so that they would understand the process and the benefits that addressing the basic skills needs of their staff could have for the department. Similar sessions were held for all manual staff so that they knew that discrete help was on offer and what the processes would be. The appraisal system was then amended to prompt for basic skills requirements.
After appraisals, department heads and line managers contact Natalie with their employees’ needs. Often new needs emerge as new work processes are introduced and people are expected to adapt their working methods or use new skills. ‘This can be an intimidating time for people who are unsure of their basic skills. It’s important at this stage that line managers pick this up and we can support them in their development, and help them feel confident in their jobs’ says Natalie.
At present, numbers are kept deliberately small. Last year just five or six people took up the learning offered through the council and the college, either as a result of self-referral or the appraisal process. Natalie explains, ‘With small numbers we can not only ensure that provision is very targeted for the individual but also ensure a very personal degree of service.’ Departments have reported massive strides forward in individuals.
Natalie and Glynn Jones, basic skills tutor at Coleg Llandrillo meet regularly to review progress and discuss which departments they plan to target. Having been awarded the Employer Pledge award last year, their long-term goal now is to ‘main-stream’ the basic skills provision into he training and development schedule of the Authority and ensure that provision is always there if people want it.
Natalie has been pleased with the results, saying, ‘Partnership working with the college has been a particular success and line managers have been thrilled with individuals’ significant improvements.’