Written by Senior Career Development Consultant, Dr Oliver Jenkin PGCE RCDP
The year 2020 has posed unprecedented challenges, both practical and personal, to individuals and businesses globally. No sector has been left untouched by the disruption caused by lockdowns and social distancing measures and, CSW Group, like many other companies in the education and social enterprise sector, has needed to find new ways of working and delivering services to our customers. The following is an overview of how we have met these challenges and continued to deliver much needed support to young people across the South West region.
Adapting to new ways of working has been an abiding theme this year for many workplaces. Although traditionally a company that has specialized in delivering face to face career guidance and personal support service, CSW Group was well placed to meet this challenge, transitioning seamlessly to remote ways of working before lockdown started in March. Having access to technology such as Teams and Zoom has enabled our Career Development Consultants, Community Engagement Advisers and Key Workers to continue supporting young people in a safe and accessible manner:
“I think our ability to adapt and be consistent in our support for young people has really helped in this changing landscape; especially through the summer this has really helped. We have been able to react to difficulties they have faced being at home, their anxieties and helping them start in new provisions, and we have been able to respond and offer support where needed.” Sherri Bushen, Career Development Consultant.
A positive by-product of the greater use of technology and remote working to support clients this year has been the way in which this has supported CSW Group’s efforts to become a more environmentally sustainable organisation. Meeting clients and holding meetings online via Zoom and similar platforms has helped reduce carbon emissions from commuting and from office energy, whilst maintaining overall productivity. This has tallied well with the UN programme Green Impact, to which CSW Group has signed up to bring about positive changes for the company’s environmental impact, its employees’ wellbeing, and the service it offers to its customers:
“From a sustainability point of view, lockdown has led to us developing more environmentally friendly ways of working and the option to video call / meet and share documents etc. is a really useful addition to the more ‘normal’ ways of meeting. It is clear that this form of communication has now become accepted and that people are much more comfortable with the process.” Larry Cole, Assistant Project Manager.
Much of CSW Group’s work is focused on supporting young people to have the best chance they can of accessing learning and employment opportunities and to overcome any barriers that might be hampering their ability to do this. Recent research from YoungMinds and the Office for National Statistics has highlighted the deleterious effect of Covid-19 on young people’s mental health and employment prospects, respectively. For many young people and their parents this is an unprecedented situation, as they face trying to transition into a drastically different and unfamiliar employment landscape compared with the start of the year. During this time, the consistent support of front line CSW staff has been invaluable in helping young people sustain focus, motivation and hope during what has been a very unsettling period:
“I think the work we did over the summer term to provide extra support to those young people that were seeking work was really valued and appreciated by the majority of clients that I spoke to. A few parents commented that they hadn’t been contacted by anyone else offering support and I got the feeling that they really appreciated the opportunity to talk things through and get some professional advice.” Katie Cable, Career Development Consultant.
“The efforts of the team at CSW during this time have been recognised by our Local Authority commissioners who have been impressed by the speed of our response to Covid. We have quickly put in place support for those young people that have been adversely affected by the pandemic to help them make informed decisions about their options. I’m really proud of the team and their achievements.” David Roe, Partnership and Development Manager.
The past year has been a testing time, and despite impressive progress with the development of vaccines, the impact of Covid-19 looks set to remain significant as we move into 2021. Whatever the New Year brings, CSW Group have demonstrated that we are a company ideally suited to operating in a post-Covid environment. Our clients will need to adapt and be flexible to compete in a turbulent and competitive job market. By embodying the importance of adaptability in the face of challenging times, we are well placed to support young people to navigate the difficult road ahead.