Meet Scott Parkin the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Employability Professionals (IEP), the only membership body for employability professionals, the people who support others gain work, progress in work and retain work.
During Scott’s 30+ years in the employability sector, the past 9 of which he has spent at IEP in one capacity or another, Scott has gained valuable insights about the sector and he was kind enough to share his time and thoughts with me recently in an interview.
Scott to us about the sector and the changes, evolutions and influences on it, as well as what keeps him occupied in his spare time. We are delighted to have him as a guest for our Employability Chats series.
Q: The IEP has been established for over 11 years now. What have been the major changes in the employability sector during that time?
There have been many changes in the sector since the IEP was established, but one of the most notable changes is the way the sector has developed to work more collaboratively and collectively. Good evidence of this can be seen through excellent initiatives like the ReAct Partnership which is co-funded by the Prime Providers for the Restart Scheme. The sharing of best practice and ‘what works’ evidence coming out of the ReAct Action Learning Sets is helping to directly improve performance outcomes for participants on Restart and it’s a fantastic model highlighting the power of collaboration.
Another major change is the professionalisation of the sector through accredited learning which is driving up quality and standards and creating stronger career progression pathways for all the professionals who work in our sector.
Q: What does 2023 look like for the employability sector in general?
There were some welcome measures in the recent Spring Budget which are designed to help people back to work, including investment in childcare and better joined-up support from health and employment services but there is still much to do to properly make an impact on economic inactivity the UK is currently experiencing, and to attract more disabled people and older people into the workforce. The number of young people outside of education or employment is also rising so this will continue to be a focus area for employability providers.
There is no doubt that technological advancements and shifting workforce trends will also shape the employability sector in 2023. Skills matching with locality-based data has an important part to play in driving future planning and presents an opportunity for providers to use intelligence to help bridge labour-force gaps. The sector is utilising new and emerging technology all the time to improve their service provision and we should expect an increase in AI technologies which will create a world of opportunities for providers, practitioners and participants alike in helping to find good work.
The employability sector is constantly sharing new ways of thinking, research, opinion, success stories and best practice to help provide solutions to challenges and at the IEP we are continually developing our accredited learning programmes and qualifications to provide specialist learning to ensure employability professionals are well-equipped, skilled and knowledgeable to better support people with barriers find work, progress in work and retain work.
Q: What is the IEP focused on in 2023?
2023 is a year for significant growth for the IEP. The past few years have seen us grow in membership, in the scale of our offer and in reach. Whilst still providing high quality of support in the UK the IEP is expanding globally and has recently established an office in Sweden and we are well on our way, alongside our partners, in creating IEP Australia.
We are also working with individual and corporate members in countries as diverse as Finland, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands and the IEP Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications have been delivered in Saudi Arabia, Australia, and Sweden. Exciting further opportunities to work with employability professionals in other countries are also now emerging including Canada, South Korea, and New Zealand.
Our Learning arm – the IEP Learning Academy - will continue to develop new accredited learning and qualifications to add to our already successful programmes – the IEP Sector Induction, Certificate in Employability Practice, Over 50’s Employability Support; Understanding Neurodiversity; Coaching for Employability; Mentoring for Employability and Careers and Employer Solutions.
We have a number of specialist programmes coming soon including a new Mental Health in Employability programme as well as other CPD opportunities such as our IEP Learning Academy podcast which went live in March.
Another focus for IEP in 2023 is our continued drive to improve quality standards across the profession and we are excited about a new contract we have been awarded in Belfast to implement a quality assurance framework. There are huge benefits that will come from working in other countries, sharing learning across a greater network to help employability professionals everywhere be the best they can be.
Q: Where do you see opportunities for evolution in the sector?
The work that employability professionals do each and every day is increasingly becoming recognised as important both socially and economically with the need for professional practice at its heart. Raising awareness and articulating the social value of the sector is an important strategic goal of the IEP and we are continually striving to champion the profession and build relationships with organisations who are committed to investing in their people.
The employability sector is here to support people who are furthest away from the job market and employability practice is a profession that should be highly regarded as playing a crucial role in society. Discovering new and innovative ways to reach people and be even more effective, operating in places where we can have the most impact and working with other professionals such as in health providers to deliver joined-up approaches is key to the evolution of employability support. Improved use of technology and automation will also play an important part.
Q: How can we better support people with barriers to find work?
By further improving collaboration and joined-up working in the sector and through improved knowledge, skills and understanding of ‘what works’. The IEP are committed to the professional development of employability practitioners everywhere and as more specialist learning and improved quality standards are disseminated throughout the sector, with practitioners being supported to be the best they can be, we will see improved engagement with and from employers and participants alike, who will benefit from services that are better tailored to individual needs.
Q: The IEP held its excellent digital technology conference in September 2022. What role do you think technology can play moving forward?
I see technology playing a significant role in helping people with barriers to find, progress and sustain work. For example, it can provide remote job opportunities, facilitate online training and education, and enable individuals to connect with mentors and support networks. Additionally, technology can help remove physical and cultural barriers by providing accessible tools and platforms. However, it is important to ensure that technology is developed and implemented in an inclusive manner that considers the needs and experiences of all users. It is also critical that it does not replace human interaction as building and maintaining trust with those we support remains paramount, and actually truly the only thing that really works in employability practice.
Q: When you are not working hard to advance the employability sector what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I get a real buzz from my role, I believe that I have the best job in the world, but outside of work I love spending time with my three children, road cycling, walking, reading, movies and good food.
Q: If you had a magic wand and could make one change for the sector in 2023 what would it be?
I wish for a sector that is able to foster an environment where jobseekers are never hesitant to seek help in finding employment and willingly accept the available support. Changing the perception of our profession, as a whole, is the key but it also needs real change in society’s view of people seeking work and the value they have.
Linked to this I also wish for our profession to be recognised globally and valued for its social and economic impact.