Matt Hyde: Together we can start a skills revolution

To mark National Apprenticeship Week, Matt Hyde reflects on the need to respond creatively to boost skills today, so the sector is prepared for the challenges of tomorrow

The pandemic has posed plenty of tough questions. But here’s one facing every leader right now: how do we reward and motivate our people when our financial resources are at their lowest ebb?

We have entered a new phase of the pandemic. Another (bleaker, colder and darker) lockdown has made it harder to motivate beleaguered staff teams. But by the same token, the demand for services doesn’t stop.

Indeed, in many instances, it continues to grow. And many charities will be starting their new financial year leaner (with 7,440 sector redundancies made in 2020) and less likely to offer any pay award.

There will, of course, be those who are grateful to still be in employment, but I think we should be setting our sights higher than that. We have a duty to inspire a workforce that is energised and equipped to respond to the challenges of tomorrow.

Our ambition should be to use this moment to foster talent, cultivating a step change in creating diverse, inclusive teams, where a focus on wellbeing guides our cultures, so that our people can be at their best. This will require creativity, collaboration and proactive planning.

Supporting new talent

In 2019, I set up the UK’s first degree apprenticeship for social change with Queen Mary University of London. The programme was designed to encourage a broader range of entry-level talent into the sector, and address some of the diversity issues we collectively need to face.

The programme will soon be recruiting for a September 2021 entry with a range of charitable organisations, large and small. It continues to present a fantastic offer to those considering a career in the sector through a fee-free degree where they can earn, learn and change the world.

As we begin to make preparations for the post-Covid-19 world, we must also consider the development offer for current employees, and the skills we need to help address the challenges that lie ahead.

Upskilling existing employees

With that in mind, it’s fantastically exciting to share that the Social Change Degree Apprenticeship will now also be open to existing colleagues from charitable organisations. Employees can gain a full BSc Business Management (Social Change) degree while developing key competencies in fundraising, management and leadership, charity governance, social action and impact evaluation.

At the heart of this degree is inclusion and accessibility. Our workplaces can only become more diverse if we create opportunities for all. The programme remains fundable through the Apprenticeship Levy, classes will be offered online so that those outside London can access the programme, and all live sessions will be held on a single day to minimise impact on existing workload.

Our commitment to help diversify the charity sector workforce remains as strong as ever. I feel sure this new focus on helping to upskill, re-skill, reward and retain existing staff in the sector will help us rebuild once we are on the other side of the pandemic.

Why skills will drive recovery

Even in tough times, we cannot afford to stop investing in our people’s development. In fact this is the very thing that will keep our staff engaged, uplifted and motivated.

From free courses to leadership programmes, mentoring or coaching, our people need to be equipped with the skills, knowledge and behaviours to cope with the demands of a post-pandemic world – digitally equipped, able to problem-solve, collaborate and think critically.

With youth unemployment rising, and a generation massively impacted by Covid-19, we have a critically important role to consider what our offer is to young people who are inspired by our causes. This means recommitting to apprenticeships where we can, and engaging with the Government’s Kick Start programme.

John Ruskin said the reward for someone’s work is “not what they get for it, but what they become by it”. Not everyone will buy that – but in the long run, it rings true.

If we can encourage our people to develop their skills further, we are giving them something much more valuable than restaurant or cinema vouchers. (And at the moment, we can’t use those anyway.)

So let’s confidently and positively start a skills revolution in our workplaces – and we’ll see the rewards in diversity and talent for years to come.

Matt Hyde is chief executive of Scouts. To hear more about the Social Change programme at Queen Mary University of London, please contact Sarah Bryan, the School of Business and Managements Business Development Manager – s.bryan@qmul.ac.uk

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