NOVUS embraces enterprise learning with IOEE and SFEDI Awards

David Morgan is Enterprise Partnership Lead at Novus, an IOEE Academy delivering SFEDI Awards qualifications.

Working in more than 60 prisons located across five English regions, Novus deliver a diverse range of high-quality qualifications, preparing people to find employment upon their release and thrive in the world of work. The SFEDI Awards enterprise and employability qualifications Novus offers have been particularly well-received by programme leads and learners alike.

Novus first began working with SFEDI Awards four years ago. For enterprise learning, they took a strategic decision to start sourcing their qualifications from SFEDI Awards as their provider of choice.

Each year, the Skills Funding Agency under the Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) contract, ranks all Awarding Organisations according to the volume of individuals in prison undertaking their qualifications.

For the 2015/16 contract year, SFEDI Awards was ranked as the eighth most used Awarding Organisation within the prison estate and the most used specialist enterprise Awarding Organisation in a table of 42 qualification providers.

SFEDI Awards’ fast rise to the upper ranks of this table is down in large part to its relationship with Novus. The two organisations have worked in tandem to design and deliver enterprise qualifications that offer prison learners real value upon release, with the aim of meeting both the needs of the individuals and wider society in supporting the reduction of reoffending.

David Morgan, as Enterprise Partnership Lead at Novus, has watched SFEDI Awards’s rise up the OLASS table with interest. He says:

“That ranking is significant because it demonstrates SFEDI Awards’ growing provision. When we first began working with SFEDI we carried out a pilot that involved only four prisons. Just a few years on, dozens of the prisons in which we operate across five regions are accredited to deliver SFEDI Awards qualifications. That fast growth recognises the value we put into SFEDI Awards qualifications.”

In a government review published last year, entitled ‘Unlocking Potential: A Review of Education in Prison’, Dame Sally Coates highlighted the importance of self-employment as a ‘key route for offenders where the nature of their offending may make them unsuitable or unlikely to get jobs with employers.’

David continues: “The review identified that our learners need to enhance their enterprising skills for use post-release and what we know is that people in prison can’t always go back into their previous career. They have to consider a different career path if there are issues around disclosure or the type of work they can do.”

To counter this, some people develop entirely new skills while in custody, for example in a vocational trade like plastering, plumbing or painting and decorating. To turn the new trade into a viable self-employment option, they also need guidance on business start-up matters. David says:

“It’s about helping prisoners answer questions like ‘how do I trade legally, how do I get funding, how do I do my accounts…,’ because they don’t want to go back to the way they were living before. Typically, those who have an enterprising flair perhaps don’t want to work for a boss, don’t want set hours, and don’t want to be in a position where they’re told what to do. They’re self-sufficient people who need guidance on channeling their abilities in the right way.”

For Novus, SFEDI Awards’ qualifications are part of an arsenal of tools to be used to help learners reframe their innate enterprising spirit in new ways that are both legitimate and profit-generating. And, across the board they have been very well received in all the prisons David works with. The flexibility built into the courses has been particularly welcomed.

“The feedback we’ve had is that the course content is relevant to learners’ needs and that the structure of the programmes is such that it allows tutors to be creative in their delivery,” he says. “They can offer learners a wide range of support and information depending on their needs.”

As well as its SFEDI Awards programmes, Novus runs a wide-ranging curriculum with career-relevant qualifications, which helps to make the organisation the UK leader and innovator in offender education, skills and employability interventions.

David believes that it’s important to help prison learners develop enterprising skills, even if they then go on to use them as paid employees rather than entrepreneurs. He explains: “It’s also about helping people develop enterprising skills generally – not everyone wants to work for themselves. “Newly-released prisoners can find work in other people’s firms and still be enterprising as employees, adding value to that company, which is what employers are looking for.”

Moving forward, David and the Novus team are looking beyond in-prison learning to see how, working alongside SFEDI Awards and the IOEE, they can continue to support ex-offenders after release. Although it’s still early days, Novus is using past learning to develop its Offender to Entrepreneur initiative.

David says: “In the past we’ve worked with Achieve NW on a NOMS/ESF co-funded self-employment project in Greater Manchester to support men and women who had been through the custodial system and wanted to work for themselves. What we found was that a large number of the participants did not possess the underpinning knowledge needed and so weren’t able to take the steps to self-employment.

“In response, we’ve spent time working with SFEDI Awards and the IOEE developing the learning provision in custody and now we have better-educated learners coming through the system. The next phase will be to work with them as they move into the community post-release. We’re just starting that now and it’s part of our Offender to Entrepreneur initiative.”

Right now, this project is commencing in the North West and David is going into prisons to identify those learners who will ultimately respond to self-employment support post-release.

David adds: “I’m trying to select individuals with the promise of potential to take further, maybe they’ve done a vocational qualification and an enterprise programme, they’ve done their research and I can see they’re serious about it. Once these learners have finished their prison terms they’ll be given access to support and business advice upon release.”

For its part in this scheme, the IOEE is also offering post-release support to prisoners who have completed SFEDI Awards enterprise qualifications while in custody, as David explains: “These learners can gain membership to the IOEE upon release which then allows them access to the IOEE Campus, its mentor database and its mentor matching service. Although it’s very early days, already people are beginning to register for these advantages.”

The IOEE is already a familiar name to many of those working in the Novus-supported and wider prison network, and on 4 November 2015, one of them was named IOEE Centre of the Year for provision. HMP/YOI Hatfield and the Lakes is a resettlement prison that offers learners the SFEDI Awards Level 1 Award in Understanding Enterprise and the Level 2 Diploma in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship. We asked David’s colleague Zahda Qayyum, Deputy OLASS Manager at the prison, about the significance of Hatfield achieving this status.

She said: “Being IOEE Centre of the Year gives meaningful recognition to all staff and students that this provision maintains quality standards. As this is a resettlement prison, students eventually will work in the community, and the SFEDI Awards qualifications we deliver give them the opportunity and time to put together their business idea so they’re ready to go out and take ownership of their exciting new opportunities.

“Since being awarded IOEE Centre of the Year, we continue to have visitors from other establishments come in to see our teaching delivery and share our resources. It also gives distinction to external visitors when coming in to the Corporate Business Suite and the atmosphere is very good.”

Since first starting work together, Novus and SFEDI Awards have been fine-tuning the enterprise qualifications offered to prisoners, amending and perfecting both the range and specific programmes. Currently, depending on where learners are located, prisoners can choose to undertake a variety of SFEDI Awards qualifications including the Level 1 Award in Understanding Enterprise, the Level 1 Award in Passport to Enterprise and Employment, Level 1 Certificate in Self Marketing and Personal Enterprise and the Level 2 Certificate in Preparing to Set Up in a New Business.

David adds: “We’ve just started to deliver the new Level 1 Award in Passport to Enterprise and Employment in some locations because as well as the nuts and bolts of working for yourself, it covers important topics like citizenship, personal development and being an enterprising person at work.

“All the SFEDI Awards qualifications are used to help learners explore what self-employment is, what it is to be enterprising and whether it’s the right path for them as individuals. A qualification like the Level 1 Award in Understanding Enterprise gives us a kick off and then those who want to progress might move on to a qualification like the Level 2 Certificate in Preparing to Set Up In a New Business, to gain more in-depth knowledge.”

David sees the way Novus and SFEDI Awards works together as a mutually beneficial, productive relationship. Speaking about how programmes are selected, he says: “We look at which courses are the most appropriate, and statistically which are most popular. Since the partnership began we have supported more than 5,000 prisoners to develop their enterprising knowledge and skills. My role enables me to work across multiple prisons and see how they deliver enterprise differently, the various barriers that they face and the types of learners with whom they engage.

“I get to meet people who are enterprising and have a genuine desire to do something different – I get a lot of pleasure from being able to take someone from initial business idea to fully blown working business, getting it set up and seeing the business flourish. Plus, I get to work with organisations like SFEDI Awards and the IOEE that are really open to suggestions on improving delivery. It’s a great relationship and one I believe will only get stronger.”