In our local area the lives of Black Country residents are determined by a unique set of characteristics setting it apart as an area largely unlike any other in England, containing some of the most deprived areas of the Country. Over half its residents live in the top twenty percent of areas of deprivation with the health of people across the region largely negatively driven by their socio-economic status.
ABC and its key partners have placed the need to develop a workforce reflective of local communities in order to tackle high deprivation and reach out to under-represented groups high on its agenda. Our aim therefore is to further understand motivations to instigate meaningful behaviour change amongst inactive lower socio-economic groups across the Black Country.
The partnership undertook insight which consulted with Inactive Participants, Workforce and Employers including community sport clubs and organisations to develop a breadth and depth of understanding.
Our principle insight was gathered by the ‘Black Country Sport & Physical Activity Sector Skills Plan’ - the first of its kind in the UK. The plan aimed to transform the skills needed to get more people active and contribute to addressing the skills needed for economic growth.
Our insight showed a significant skills shortage across the sectors workforce to effectively engage with the audience as participants, and illustrated the significant barriers to many becoming active and key skills and behaviours such as diversity awareness, flexibility, resilience, motivation and influencing, empathy and communication in short supply. The lower socio-economic communities across the Black County are faced with multiple barriers, low confidence and esteem, and lacking motivation with effective support and clear positive pathways to being physically active, including specific target groups such as young people with high support needs emotional and mental health issues.
Application of Insight
The insight has been used to inform strategy, influence partners and produce resources to drive a cultural shift in the way the Black Country’s workforce is developed, supported and deployed. For example, through the inclusion of the Sector Skills Plan in the West Midlands Combined Authority ‘Skills for Growth and Employment’ strand in the ‘On the Move Physical Activity Framework’ and ’Towards An Active Black Country Strategic Framework’, additionally it formed the award criteria evidence base for the ESF: Youth Employment Initiative across the Black Country, enabling community organisations to access £1.6m of funding to develop projects using the power of sport to get people closer to the job market.
Active Black Country has influenced the supply chain though developing, ‘Your Coaching Journey’ that features tools to support the development of the workforce and enable them to provide a more positive experience for participants, these include:
1. ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) our customer engagement tool is designed for coaches, activators and helpers to place the customer at the heart of the journey, by understanding their motivations. KYC has reached over 380 coaches and volunteers and has been used across 12 Secondary Schools.
2. Our innovative ‘Menu of Training’ in which we work with partners to shape a bespoke training offer which meets our local needs. To date over 250 coaches and volunteers have accessed this training with the workforce able to complete their own training needs analysis through our coaching framework, enabling them to build a training package based on their individual needs.
3. Our ‘Mentoring Programme’ enabling local coaches from a variety of areas to develop strong mentoring skills which they apply to their workforce. Through 1-2-1 sessions and group workshops with access to high quality support from an occupational therapist, community leader and ARK Consultancy, the participants tested resources including the MTQ Resilience questionnaire and shared learning through an online platform. Our 20 mentors have been able to impact over 300 coaches, volunteers and participants (customers) and we have developed modular video training packages to support further projects.
Adopting an innovative approach, we drove further projects that have delivered impact against the objectives. For example:
1. The Black Country ‘Young Coach Academy’, which provided 23 young coaches from diverse backgrounds with the skills they need to fulfil volunteering and coaching roles. They explore how sport and physical activity can change and shape lives through employment, health and self-efficacy.
2. The Black Country Talent Match programme which aims to overcome specific barriers to employment with over 100 underrepresented lower socio economic young people who accessed the programme. We recruited Talent Match mentees to deliver sport and physical activity and developed a training package delivering ‘360 Personal Potential Training’ to 20 mentors, who then provided learning from the approach adopted and using their expertise from engaging with our priority audience.
These approaches have led to a jointly funded post between ABC and Talent Match to lead a number of programmes across the Black Country.
3. An apprenticeship programme with Wolverhampton Connect-Ed partnership, employing apprentices to work with schools across the city to meet Obesity strategy outcomes. The creation of 20 new posts provides a role that young people from across the City can aspire to, providing a genuine employment opportunity for a new generation of school leavers; in addition a traineeship programme has also been developed in partnership with Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council, supporting the growth of their community engagement programme.
In summary our insight gained and initiatives undertaken have enabled us to impact on our large scale challenge across the Black Country and further focus our commitment to developing a diverse front line workforce that interact with customers, prioritising soft skill development to build a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone.