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European Centre for Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship Conference

Building a picture of achievement

Building a picture of personal achievement

The final conference for our Bulgarian partnership with the European Centre for Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship took place in Plevin. The project aim was to support 300 young people into employment over a twelve month period by conducting three Rickter Scale Interviews, two on-line consultations and giving access to on-line resources with regard to building job preparation skills.

The outcome is that practitioners have engaged with over 300 young people and have supported 48% into employment.

The conference audience was made up of some of the young people who had participated, employers, professionals and representatives from the Labour Bureau.

Elena Todorova Ivanova-Kiritsova, Personal and Human Communities Development Association opened the conference and explained the aims of the project, Penka Spasova, Chairperson of RESC Pleven talked about the need for this type of work, Keith Stead, The Rickter Company spoke about the outcomes that were evidenced through using Rickter and the IMS, and Nan Wood, The Rickter Company talked about the training and input that we had with regard to reviewing and verifying best practice.

There was a display of coloured boxes with words written on them such as; confidence, motivation, success etc and after each person spoke; including the young people and some of the practitioners, they were asked to select a box that represented what they had gained from the project and they were constructed to offer up a physical picture of what had been achieved.

The conference was a huge success, with everyone involved delighted by the outcomes.

Positive Outcomes from the Bulgaria Conference

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Keith and I returned to Plevin, Bulgaria for the Sustained Employment Project conference on the 8th July.  We were given a very warm welcome by Elena Ivanova-Kiritsova and Penka Spasova who have been managing the project and also by the Practitioners who have been doing all of the interviews. Over the past year we have built up wonderful friendships with this group of very professional people. The conference was well attended by representatives from various partner agencies and government departments.

When originally developed the Sustained Employment Model was to look at how we could support unemployed people by using the Rickter Scale® to access training and employment. For those who were employed it would be used to help them maintain and grow within their work situation. With this in mind 650 people were interviewed; 300 unemployed, 300 employed and 50 employers. This work was undertaken by 10 Practitioners, expertly managed by Elena and Ira Nikolova. The role of the Rickter Company was to train these experts and help them develop a dedicated overlay of questions to engage with clients and evidence the work being done. The group met in Newcastle for a consultation and introduction to the model and later were trained in Plevin.

BG Trg Group

The Practitioners had to find the people to participate in the project and then conduct the initial interview and review interviews, all within a period of five months. The Rickter Company monitored the practice of these experts. The outcomes from the interviews have been excellent and the Practitioners stood up at the conference and gave their feedback of the impact that it had on people’s lives and a few case studies of their experiences in using the Rickter Scale®. Identifying choice was one area that stood out as being an important factor for some of the unemployed people and for employers it was raising awareness of the importance of supporting and valuing staff. One unemployed person who had been supported by the project gave very positive feedback on his experience of being on the receiving end of the Rickter Board. 

We were interviewed by the press before the conference, as this model is being used to feed back results to the Department of Labour and is an important and innovative way of working that has never been used in Bulgaria before.

Keith gave an informed presentation on the outcome of the final report and I talked about the positive work of everyone involved and gave examples of where Rickter is being used in different arenas within our work in the UK and other parts of Europe.  At this point I must say that had it not been for our expert translator, Kalina Ilieva perhaps things might not have gone so smoothly! Elena and Penka spoke of the importance of the outcomes of using Rickter and the impact it was having on the people of Plevin; 14% of the participants who were unemployed have gained employment.  Elena also spoke about how this model could have an impact on the whole of Bulgaria and the way people in services work.

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This project has been such a success that we have been invited to participate in a new one starting in August that will see Rickter offered to young people to gain entrepreneurial skills.

You can read the final Project Report here

Nan Wood, Director of Operations

 

What is coming up for Rickter in 2013?

What is coming up for Rickter in 2013?

Well for me at the moment it reads like a European Tour! I am off to Bulgaria in January to do a monitoring visit for the practitioners who are working on the Rickter Sustained Employment Model in Plevin.

flightIn February I’m heading back to Bulgaria with Keith, this time to the capital of Sofia to have a meeting with our European Partners around the Mobility Project we are working on. At the end of the month it will be over to Carpi in Italy to monitor our Italian Practitioners and have a meeting with our Transfer of Innovation Partners to look at how using the Rickter Scale is progressing in Italy, Greece and Germany and also to start planning our conference. Look out for it!  It will be held at Northumberland University Campus in Newcastle on the 4th September.

In March I will be off to Dublin, delivering some Rickter Scale Training. Please contact us on 01463 717177 if you would be interested in attending this open course, which is scheduled for the 7th March.

Later on in March I will be returning to Bulgaria again to monitor progress and offer support to our practitioners.

Romania calls in June for Keith and myself, as part of our Grundtvig Partnership where we are exploring support mechanisms for parents and professionals who are supporting children affected by social/media addiction.

September brings our Transfer of Innovation Project to an end and we will have everyone in Newcastle for this.

Meanwhile we will all be busy delivering training in the UK and working on new developments and the promotion of Rickter. I wonder when Rick made the first board on his kitchen table whether he thought it would become so far travelled….

Bulgarian Partnership visit to Newcastle

Keith and I were joined by a great group of people last week from Bulgaria when we spent five days in Newcastle exploring how our project on Sustained Employment would progress.

Bulgarian Project 2There was Elena Kiritsova who is the Chairperson of the Development of Personnel and Human Resources Service in Plevin District.  Elena thought that this project was needed with regard to people making proper career choices with the support and involvement of services and employers.  She said, “We expect to enrich our experience and give a good quality service”.  The expectation is to make this model one that is accepted by government bodies in Bulgaria.

The other partner represented by Chairperson, Penka Spasova is the Original Enterprise Support Centre which represents business members, education organisations, etc in the Plevin municipality.  They offer training and support to business enterprises, employers and those who are unemployed in the region.  Within this work they realise that good skills levels are very important and they would like to encourage self assessment.  Aneliya Rangelova, Silvia Tzvetkova and Aleksandar Krastev also attended and are Psychologists and Professors who teach in universities and also work in various specialist areas; Psychology courses at Plevin University and the Medical University, motivational courses for long term unemployed, primary schools raising pupil self-esteem, police who are suffering ‘burn out’, families at risk, people with chronic conditions such as cancer etc.  The expectations of being part of this project as described by Silvia is, “In a year’s time to have a detailed practical and theoretical course for medical students based on the Rickter Scale® model”.  Rick also came along and shared his development experience of why the Rickter Scale® had come into being and the impact it had even in the early stages, which was a very positive grounding to get us started.

We looked at a Social Survey which they had commissioned in Plevin around assessment and long term unemployed people (those who had not worked for longer than two years), employed people and employers.  They sampled 547 employed individuals, 500 unemployed individuals and conducted 101 employer interviews.  The outcomes were no different to those attitudes and barriers we experience in the UK.  In that, a small majority of unemployed people were optimistic about their future to get work, overcome problems and adapt to changes.  There were however quite a large number who share a pessimism for the future with regard to employment which leads to frustration and depression.  Salary was also identified as a motivational factor, but people didn’t connect salary level to skills and abilities.  It was identified that this  can be a huge barrier to maintaining employment and being realistic about job choices in the first place.  A lot of the individuals interviewed were against assessment.  From the outcome of the discussion we had this is around assessment being done to them, rather than with them. It was also shown that some employers are not enthusiastic about assessment, some feeling it was something dictated to them, especially local authority organisations.  Because we would like to encourage positive outcomes for the individuals it has been decided to approach those employers who are displaying quality standards similar to Investment in People for the time that this project will run.  Ground work will be required with employers to introduce them to the Sustained Employment Model and to demonstrate the advantages of working in this partnership to gain positive outcomes.  As the Job Centre in Plevin is the main source for referrals it has also been decided to do raise awareness of the model with staff there to encourage partnership working.  It was said that our first aim is to, “Open the door” and then build on the foundation to take this way of working forward.

The group were introduced to the Rickter Scale® through completing baseline profiles for themselves on the board, powerpoint presentations and examples of where and how we work.  Theory and practice was defined and a demonstration interview using the Rickter Scale® showed how to engage.  It also made clear the impact the use of the board can have around ownership, raising personal awareness and committing to an achievable action plan.  There was an introduction to the Rickter Impact Management System indicating the reports and outcomes it could evidence for individuals, funders and managers.

We visited Seaham to demonstrate the downfall of industry and the high rise of unemployment, especially in the youth of the area.  Later Jon Clapham, Job Centre Plus came and spoke with the group and gave a very interesting account of the work that he and his team had done in this area among others in working with families.  This is where there were at least two generations of unemployment and benefit claimants.  He said that it was the small things that stopped people moving forward, i.e. money management, social isolation in their own communities etc and because people had, “accepted their lot and didn’t know of any different way of life, that they thought they were okay”.  It had only been when Jon’s team started to work with them that they realised there could be wider choices and perhaps they had higher expectations.  He thought the use of the Rickter Scale® in this work had been invaluable.  The group recognised the similarities of the barriers to employment within their own experiences in Bulgaria.  They thought Jon’s work an excellent example of good practice.  Throughout the week we shared good practice and I used our model of the work done in Belfast to demonstrate positive outcomes.  This I feel is because of what I see are similarities of progression around employment, communities and positive identifications of a country moving forward.

We worked together to define an overlay tailored to this project that could be used to connect with individuals in employment, those unemployed and employers.  Training of the Rickter Process, Action Planning and the IMS will take place in October in Plevin and again will be customised to the specific requirements of this project.

The big question is, how did we communicate?  The answer is, with two very good translators named Stanislav and Milla.  Milla was especially helpful and understood the importance of getting our own Rickter language across.

As it was most of the group’s first time in the UK we had a cultural visit to Durham where everyone was impressed by the cathedral, and some by the fish and chips!  There was also some shopping and pub visits to hear live music after the work was done for the day.  The week went very quickly and by the positive feedback given, we all felt that we have a great foundation established for this model to grow on.  Rick returned on Friday and surprised us with a cake which his daughter had made.

Bulgarian Project 1

It showed the Bulgarian Flag with Rickter to demonstrate our partnership and we also used it to help to celebrate Silvia’s birthday along with some treats from Bulgaria.  A very unique way to finish our time in Newcastle.

Rickter forms Bulgarian Partnership

The Rickter Company has just successfully completed an application with a Bulgarian Organisation named the Development of Personality and Human Communities. Its aim is to conduct activities in the encouragement and development of equality of different social groups: including unemployed, socially-isolated and marginal communities and their integration in the civil society, political and economical life.Bulgaria

The organisation helps with improving social, health and demographic status of the population, development of the labor market, increasing professionalism and the social realization of specific target groups.

The association works for sustainable development at local and regional level and has well-established partnerships within local government, police, institutions, business and media. It develops wide research, information, educational and consultancy activities.

Rickter has previously worked with Penka Spasova who is chairwoman from one NGO – Regional Enterprise Support Centre in Pleven – through our Leonardo Project and formed very positive working relationships with Penka and her colleagues. We were asked to come up with an idea to integrate Rickter into one of the areas they currently work in. Our project, which is just about to start, is about sustained employment and using the Rickter Scale® to measure impact and engage with the Beneficiary, Employer and Employment Service, thus demonstrating full inclusion of the Individual, Employers and Service Providers.

The Rickter IMS will be used to record outcomes and provide evidence reports. The Bulgarian Group are coming to Newcastle in August to start this exciting project and I will be going to Bulgaria in September to deliver training. I will keep you updated of our progress.

Nan wins in the Leonardo Photo category of the Ecorys and British Council Your Story Competition

Congratulations to our very own Nan Wood who has been announced as a Highly Commended Prize Winner for her photographic project entry to the Lifelong Learning Programme ‘Your Story‘ Competition.

Leonardo Photo Competition

Leonardo Photo Competition

Nan used photographs from our trips to Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Poland to illustrate our Leonardo Journey over the past 2 years working as part of the ESF Leonardo Lifelong Learning Partnership Project.

You can view Nan’s Story here on the competition website: http://competition.lifelonglearningprogramme.org.uk/leonardo/photo.php

Hover on each image to read the accompanying text.

Unfortunately Nan is unable to attend the Prize Awards Event next week due to a previously scheduled work commitment but well done Nan, and congratulations to all the other winners across the three categories.

Bulgaria ASK Meeting

In October Keith and I flew out to Bulgaria for the forth meeting with our European Partners.  We arrived in Sofia and were then transported to Plevin by mini bus. This journey was through beautiful mountainous scenery and introduced us to some very different rules of the road! DBBZ were our hosts showing us around their worksite and the kind of apprenticeships they offer in computing, building etc. People come from surrounding areas and live within the premises while completing their courses, going away with a qualification to help them gain employment or set up their own business.

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The ASK group have been working on a comparative study of non-formal and informal acquired skills in vocational training and as you can probably guess there is quite a wide understanding of skills development.  Keith presented the final outcomes from the survey we did.  All countries undertook to ask students/trainees/teachers and trainers to complete a questionnaire and we had 329 responses on which to base our findings.  Our next step is to look at validation, reflecting on the individual\’s journey of learning which will take into account both hard and soft outcomes.  We will be following this up in Italy in a few weeks time.

M4034S-4211 We returned to Sofia for our final day and were given a guided walking tour around the city visiting many areas of historical interest.

Back from Bulgaria

Keith Stead

As part of our work with the European Leonardo Partnership ASK Project, Keith and Nan travelled to Bulgaria for what will be the fourth transnational meeting of the Partnership.

Keith writes following their return:

 

Weather: generally warm and sunny.
Hotels: fine, though with animal skins on the bedroom floor maybe not the first choice of vegans.
Food and drink: incredibly cheap, very tasty, with more than generous portions.

A melting pot of cultures. And lots to see. Wish you could have been with us!

Nan and I returned home from an excellent few days with our European partners on Sunday evening. My case followed 36 hours later. Clearly it wanted to stay too.

Of course we were there to continue sharing good practice in ‘the assessment of informally and non-formally acquired learning of vocational skills’, which is actually becoming more fascinating the more we delve into the subject and the more we hear what is happening in the other countries. If you want to get a flavour of our Leonardo Project, please have a look at www.lp-ask.org

And finally a piece of fascinating trivia:

Question – What was Sir Winston Churchill’s favourite wine? Answer – a Bulgarian red, made from Mavrud grapes. I brought a bottle home, but may have to go back for more!

Next stop Slovakia. Nazdravye!