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20 surveyor 23 July 2009

surveyor 23 July 2009


skills & training

skills & training

David Crawford joins a new local authority-backed course which aims to promote skills training among local residents.

Opening up a world of opportunities


kills shortages in local authority transport departments are forcing them to hire contract staff at up to twice the cost of employing ‘full-timers’. One recent response was a pilot course on Opening up the world of transportation and consultancy skills, run in conjunction with the London Borough of Brent transportation unit. Devised by transportation consultant John David’s Amnick training company, the course ran for 12 weeks on Saturday afternoons and enrolled an eventual 30 people. Most were in the 18-24 ‘entry-level’ age-band being targeted by the Department for Work and Pensions under its future jobs fund initiative, announced in the 2009 Budget to help young people avoid joining the ranks of the long-term unemployed. Others were older people with labour market disadvantages, such as a disability or a period out of employment. Four were existing transportation unit staffers taking advantage of an arrangement to allow them to share their

own experience. On a Saturday in June, in a crowded training room in Brent House, Wembley, I sat in on a module on project management. The course aims to give each trainee the opportunity to achieve a basic qualification in PRojects IN Controlled Environments (PRINCE)2, an existing process-based project management method widely used in the public sector. The main presenter was Matt Buchanan, currently policy and risk management co-ordinator in the London Borough of Croydon’s parking services, which he first joined in August 2008. The Brent initiative followed an earlier scheme in Croydon, in which 10 out of 12 people who enrolled found jobs in the section. Buchanan had previously worked in drug-related crime reduction, where he first acquired an interest, and began qualifying, in project management. He was, therefore, able to give his audience the benefit of his first-hand experience in entering and moving on in the field. The atmosphere was lively, enthusiastic and

committed, with something of the feel of an MBA course for job-seekers. The afternoon ended with a tightly-timed, Apprentice-style competition for teams to build, to a detailed specification, a model house out of everyday stationery materials, with a who-does-what organisational plan as a key component. Among those attending, college-leaver Sahil Dalsania had already been gaining work experience at Brent. He has since realised his hopes of joining the three other course participants that had already secured employment – one in Manchester. Abdul Swaleh has a law degree and had been a paralegal with a small practice in east London which specialised in housing, environmental and highway enforcement issues. After losing his job, he read about the scheme in The Brent Magazine. He was optimistic about his chances of finding entry-level employment where his legal experience would be useful in the transport are-

na. He would also welcome regular sections on use of the knowledge she has gained from the modules of most benefit to her were on CCTV, entry-level opportunities in industry journals. latter part of the course. This included mod- streetlighting and team-building/personal deOf the older attenders, Lindsay Hettrick had ules on team-building, contracts and procure- velopment. worked in management in utilities, then taken ment. Throughout the 12 weeks, officers from voluntary redundancy and helped run a busiAmong those attending from Brent council, three other London boroughs – Croydon, Harness providing passenger transport for local row and Southwark – as well as Brent, conauthorities until some of its key contracts to specific modules. External guest The initiative followed an earlier tributed were not renewed. presenters included Jon Laws, managing She had joined the course half-way scheme in Croydon, in which 10 director of CCTV adviser, the Lyndhurst through, with an eye to an upcoming conout of 12 people who enrolled Consultancy. The final session involved two sultancy module which, she said, would be of the participants undergoing simulated infound jobs in the section ‘very useful’ if she decides to work in the terviews for a project manager role in front public sector. of the whole class. Both, says David, ‘feel Ignatius D’Cruz took voluntary redundan- Anthony Vartanian, works in technical sup- that they will now be much more confident in cy from private-sector management, then port as a performance officer in highways. On similar situations in the future’. had an accident and is now registered as joining in April 2008, without a background To progress the idea, he has set up a thinkdisabled. He wants to get back to work and in engineering – he had formerly worked in tank, which held its inaugural meeting at the is interested in seeing what local authority business development with a mobile phone Surveyor offices on 18 June. Participants intransport can offer. company – he was ‘thrown in at the deep end’ cluded representatives from the DWP, the As a result of taking part, Sunita Shah, pre- and sometimes felt at a loss when fielding in- London Development Agency, contractors F viously a scientist but now looking for a career quiries from councillors, MPs and members of M Conway and the London boroughs of Brent, change, has ‘become aware of the importance the public. He now feels more confident and Croydon and Lambeth. Longer-term, David of the transportation unit, and of its aim of knowledgeable and looks forward to building a wants to set up a London transportation traincreating a safer, greener environment’. career within the council. ing academy, in order to provide a more susHer aim was to gain work experience that His colleague, Joan Reid, project monitoring tainable solution. would help her assess her suitability for a role officer in transportation strategy, has found ¶: within the unit. Failing that, she plans to make the course ‘very useful and informative’. The

Brent Opening up a world of opportunities  

Training course in Brent