Friday 10 February saw our Tamworth office play host to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Rt. Hon. Iain Duncan Smith.

Contract Director Adele Holloway, Regional Manager Pauline Nichols and the sencia. team were supported by a number of Interserve Learning & Employment. colleagues to demonstrate to the Minister the benefits of bringing together the employment and skills sides of our operations. With particular help from Jen McMahon of our Regional Skills Development team, our Tamworth customers enjoyed a visual merchandising and retail sector training taster session, delivered by one of our Employment Relations Advisers, Marie Brennan, and an employer partner from the local Matalan store. The Minister witnessed a group of approximately 20 jobseekers from our Work Programme learn about the specifics of working within the retail trade, including the importance of how to dress mannequins for an effective window or shop floor display. Our vocational training sessions also extended to cover the catering and hospitality sector, with the Holiday Inn joining us to talk about jobs in hospitality management, and Interserve Learning & Employment. Assessor Karon Lucke gave a practical demonstration on how to decorate cupcakes – Valentine’s style! Local Tamworth MP Christopher Pincher even tried his hand with a piping bag, awarding the finished product to one of our jobseekers.

The visit also saw the Minister meeting Charlotte Stanway and Jason Lightfoot, both customers who had been highlighted by their Case Managers as being particularly successful on the Work Programme for different reasons. Charlotte had overcome a number of setbacks in her attempts to educate herself and find work, not only to secure a job with us as a trainee receptionist and administrator, but also to begin a Business Administration Apprenticeship with Interserve Learning & Employment. Jason had overcome many personal issues, including a criminal record, to secure an interview with Wednesbury employer, Yodel, where he was successfully recruited to work in their warehouse in the run-up to Christmas. In addition to the progress Jason made through gaining this valuable work experience, he also dedicated some of his personal time to attending the Starfish Project in Tamworth, joining people already benefiting from this worthwhile project. Meeting with others seeking a listening ear for their problems, Jason offers up his own experience to help them and share how he tackled what he perceived to be the obstacles to finding work as an ex-offender. Mr Duncan-Smith and Mr Pincher listened to Charlotte and Jason’s stories, and presented them with certificates of achievement to acknowledge their accomplishments.

All-in-all the visit was a great success, with a round-table discussion also held to allow the Minister to meet with our sub-contracting partners and hear about the specialist interventions offered to support our customers.