Taking the Steps 2 Success programme
Reed in Partnership is one of the three lead contractors of the Steps 2 Success employment programme. The programme is mandatory for those who have been on jobseeker’s allowance for a certain period of time. It is designed to help participants build the skills and experience needed to find and keep a job.
Peter Brown is the Northern Ireland Programme Director for Reed in Partnership and is responsible for delivering the Steps 2 Success programme. Prior to joining Reed in Partnership, Peter held various senior operational roles, most recently working on a large telecommunication contract for Convergys in Belfast, managing a team of more than 180 staff.
Describe your role:
I am responsible for leading, reviewing and reporting on Steps 2 Success programme performance and supply chain management across the relevant contract region. I am also responsible for establishing and maintaining key stakeholder relationships across Northern Ireland, including those with senior Department for Employment and Learning officials, local government, employer organisations and strategic partners.
What is the best part of your job?
The participants on Steps 2 Success are the most important component-without their commitment to the requirements of the programme we would have no programme. Although we have 1000’s of people involved in the Steps 2 Success programme each one has their individual needs supported by our excellent staff. It is rewarding to see people’s circumstances change totally through their interaction with us. Many participants are in long-term unemployment and the programme helps lift them out of that very difficult place.
What aspect of your job do you find the most challenging?
It has been a real challenge making sure we were able to hit the ground running on the Steps 2 Success programme-there was no such thing as a lead in period. Operationally everything was new-the staff, the office space and our systems. Thankfully we were able to build solid working relationships very early on with each other and our supply chain partners. No two days are the same and being responsible for the work coming out of 14 different offices has been both challenging and hugely rewarding.
What are the key issues facing your sector at the moment?
The key issues facing the sector at the moment are the number of long term unemployed people living in Northern Ireland who perhaps fear there circumstances will never change. Although unemployment levels have recently fallen there is still a great deal of anxiety out there, particularly with the uncertainty around the Welfare Reform Bill and what reform may mean for people’s benefit entitlements.
How is your organisation responding to these issues?
We want to transform the lives of people on the programme. Our priority is supporting the long term unemployed. We also want to build a level of trust with employers across the contract region. Reed in Partnership wants to be seen as the partner of choice, a strong presence and trusted provider of worthwhile programmes. This partnership is already working very well; participants in the programme are gaining employment; employers are receiving valuable members of staff and we have built a strong working relationship with the Department for Employment and Learning.
What is the biggest goal on your agenda for the year ahead?
First and foremost I am committed to making the Steps 2 Success programme really work for participants. Beyond that I would like to see initiatives like our Families Programme, which has proved hugely successful across the water, work here. This programme is designed to support families with a history of unemployment. Reed in Partnership already work alongside local authorities in England to help individuals and families overcome significant barriers to work and ultimately to gain employment. We are keen to work closely with the 11 new Super Councils to help deliver initiatives such as the Families Programme in Northern Ireland.
If you had to give one piece of business advice, what would it be?
Never sit still, keep striving to grow and improve. Find a good mentor too. I really enjoy listening to motivational speakers and often put on a podcast on my way to and from work. It keeps me focused and reminds me never to become complacent about my work.
What work experience and qualifications helped you to get to your position?
I had a very happy school experience at Ballymena Academy. From there I went to University for a period of time but became impatient to get into the world of work. My first job was working in a call centre for Halifax. It gave me a valuable insight into sales and a tremendous grounding in business.