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Posted 16/09/2010 | 1 Comment

Carol asked me to write this blog.  Being a co-operative sort of person, I agreed. She asked me to explain in the blog how I come to be doing what I now do.


I considered taking you through a journey. But Tony! Blair! has given that concept a good battering. My progress has been more a series of bumps on the bottom down a stairway interrupted by several people saying; “Perhaps you would like to think about this…?”


Getting long-term unemployed people into work was my guiding aim for 18 years. During that time I set up Heatwise Glasgow and I was Chief Executive of the Wise Group. A bit like Topsy, we grew as we draught-proofed houses, carried out landscaping, ran call centres and got people into work.


We helped the majority of long term unemployed who joined us get into work. But for many people we were being asked to do too much too late. How can you retrofit soft skills onto a 22 year old man who can barely talk, listen or work with others?


Bump on the step, I became responsible in Scottish Enterprise for skills and learning across Scotland: modern apprenticeships, youth and adult skill programmes, the formation of Careers Scotland and labour market intelligence.


On the tin we said we were helping people who needed training and employers who needed people. To a very large extent this amounted to supporting people in gaining vocational skills.


In my five years in Scottish Enterprise through large thorough surveys of public and private employers an uncomfortable picture was drawn.  Most employers were happy with the people they took on. But over 20% of employers who took on school leavers or employed lower skilled people were very dissatisfied. Employers explained that their recruits were bad at elementary planning – like turning up on time; clueless about serving customers or working with supervisors and poor at talking and listening.


Most of what passes as debate on education is about getting higher and higher skill levels. In our surveys, employers telling us that their big problem was in the people they took on was the shortage of the most elementary life skill. So how do you get these soft skills? And what about the people that rejected by employers?


At that time I had no clues on how to answer that question. So we dug around and an unexpected answer came back: you get those skills in the first months and years of life - before you get to school.


Another step on my bottom, it was time to move on from the pleasures of Scottish Enterprise. I had become more and more intrigued and convinced by the need to change public policy on early years and parenting in Scotland. That largely, along with a couple of other business interests, is what I do. For decades I have impersonated a blue bottomed (politeness) fly and I am weaning myself off that pattern and enjoying my young family and threads of life too long neglected.


In the coming blogs I will do my best to contribute some insight and lightness of touch.

Comment By Comment
Ann Roberts
Joined: 22/09/2010

Comment Posted: 22/09/2010 15:00
Hello Alan. wishing you well with your blog and looking forward to participating in the conversations that you stimulate. We met many moons ago when I worked with the Wise Group on Investors in People. It was a great experience to see the value and impact the Wise Group had on the lives of people.

An aspect of my work now is to offer a personal development programme called the Wellbeing Journey and one of my passions it to support parents. Reaching parents of the very young and helping them to be more whole and balanced in their parenting at a time of their life when they are often under pressure financially and time wise feels really important. I find when I am doing leadership coaching parenting figures highly in what is important to them and is often a source of stress in their lives for all sorts or reasons.

What is is you view and experience of this area?


Ann Roberts
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