September 4th, 2018




The collapse of Carillion and cuts in public service capital spending are having a devastating effect on sub-contractors. Major construction companies secure most of the public service contracts who then sub  contract to smaller companies. The pain resulting from the collapse of companies and public sector cut backs is spread across the sub contractors, who often are least able to stand the financial stress. This effect is illustrated by  the case of Newcastle Joinery Limited which was taken to the brink and is now fighting back.

At just 27, Jamie Greenwood, the managing director, borrowed nearly £1 million to acquire a business, which, ultimately, developed into NJL. For two decades, the company has manufactured bespoke joinery and commercial interiors, delivered across various sectors underneath the NJL umbrella: NJL Custodial, NJL Secure and Yorkline.

Over the years, NJL has employed specialists in their respective field, all of whom have possessed attributes and skills to deliver an award-winning product. From craftsmanship to customer service, the offering is exceptional – illustrated by playing a pivotal part in helping Whitworth Chemists, based in Scunthorpe, win back-to-back Chemist and Druggist Pharmacy Design awards in 2017 and 2018.

However, as has been well-documented, the construction sector has been crippled over recent years. In January 2018, Britain’s second biggest construction firm, Carillion, collapsed under billions of pounds of debt. Jobs were sacrificed, pensions were put in jeopardy and approximately 30,000 smaller subcontractors were left out of pocket and faced with financial peril.

The last three years have been particularly tough, but the last six months, according to Jamie, have been the “worst ever”.

He explained: “We have been bullied and lost obscene amounts of money as a result of the construction crisis.

“Working with main contractors, like Carillion, has left us with terrible bad debts. The prison service employed us directly for 15 years, but then the maintenance of prisons was outsourced to Carillion and others and, as we now know, that proved to be a catastrophic error.

“On another project, we were employed by a main contractor to assist the build of a secure hospital; however, once started, the project was delayed, bills weren’t being paid and, bluntly, we were battered and commercially-bullied as a result – this happened a lot.”

From a commercial and personal point of view, this took its toll on the company – redundancies were made, contracts dried up, and emergency talks took place within the company about how to stabilise the business.

Jamie explained how this was achieved, changing the company’s condition from ‘critical’ to ‘stable’: “We had to rationalise our business. Letting people go was soul-destroying – I think people’s livelihoods and state of well-being have got lost within the fighting and debt collecting – but we had no choice.

“While we don’t have a choice in working with large construction firms, as they pick-up most of the new build and refurbishment projects generally, we are now mitigating the risk; for example, we manage credit very tightly, obtain credit insurance or bonds and don’t sign up to contracts with clauses allowing the construction firm to kill us.

“Whitworth Chemists is one of our most trusted and loyal clients; we receive a brief, we’re paid on time and we deliver a professional service on time – that’s how it should work. We are going back to our roots, manufacturing bespoke furniture, and not chasing big money orders – that way we have a more manageable, sustainable and less-stressful business as a result.”

Over the last few months, NJL has been pounded, been taken to the brink, but with the tenacity, dedication and experience that Jamie and his experienced senior management team have at their disposal, he is confident that the company can return to its former glory and inject some happiness back into a sector that clearly needs a positive news story.



Cloud technology is becoming popular in the public sector, but there are downsides. Martin Lipka, Head of Connectivity Architecture at Pulsant, offers advice about taking a migration decision and offers suggestions for minimising the problems that can arise and for getting the full benefits.

The journey from IT stored in a head office to IT stored online, in the cloud, can be long.
There may be pockets of turbulence. But handled well, cloud technology can help public-sector organisations improve their digital services, innovate, cut costs and respond quicker to citizens’ needs.

Cloud technology (software or an IT service that’s delivered over the internet) has been around for more than a decade. The market (which ranges from Google’s email service, Gmail, to vast datacentres and entire back-office financial software systems) has grown steadily. It’s now standard in the private sector.

But the cloud’s benefits (being able to ramp up computing power at short notice; pay-per-use IT; the potential to save money) are not confined to business.
Cloud technology is increasingly popular in the public sector. Organisations in both sectors face similar challenges ? tight budgets, pressure to become digital-service providers.
“ … National governments typically see cloud as a long-term pathway to strategic IT modernization, whereas local and regional governments tend to pursue the immediate tactical benefits of innovation and cost savings,” says Neville Cannon, research director at Gartner, a research company.

Yet, as the private sector has found, the journey to the cloud can be tricky. Challenges include migrating legacy IT systems, which can be more than 40 years old, and training staff in new technology and business processes.

And as the cloud technology market grows, the amount of choice and jargon can be confusing.
How can public-sector organisations decide whether the cloud is right for their IT? And if they do move part of their IT to the cloud, how can they minimise any disruption and maximise the benefits?

Counting clouds

First, let’s be clear about some terminology. Not all clouds are the same.
Computing clouds can be private (used by one organisation), public (organisations sharing computing resources in vast online clouds run by tech giants such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Alibaba), or a mix of both public and private, and cloud and IT stored on a company’s premises (“hybrid”).

Computing clouds have different shapes. The main ones are: “Software as-a-Service” (software applications that are hosted and run by a supplier for customers; “Infrastructure as a Service” (hardware, storage, servers and data centre space or network components that customers use to run software applications on, e.g. enterprise resource planning, data analytics); and “Platform as a Service” (PaaS); software developers use it as a platform for running software programmes and apps.

Business case

IT should serve the business, not the other way around. Using cloud technology will require a change in an organisation’s mindset as well as its business processes and software and hardware.

Staff will need training. And spending on cloud will affect an organisation’s balance sheet. (Much cloud computing is charged for pay-per-use, rather than an annual fee for traditional software).

Before moving to cloud technology, public-sector IT heads and other executives should answer three questions.
• What’s the compelling business reason for cloud technology and digital transformation?
• What are the technology challenges that the organisation must comply with?
• And what technical solution can be put in place to solve it?

Moving to the cloud

Map your applications, workflows and IT infrastructure.
You’ll probably discover IT systems you didn’t realise you had. Where’s your most important data e.g. financial, personal data on citizens that may highly damaging if hacked or leaked. When are IT systems used? By how many employees? How do they share data?
Work out how much your IT costs to run and their efficiency, e.g. how often they’re unavailable each day.

These calculations can help you work out if the new cloud technology is performing better than your old IT. Migration in IT is notoriously tricky ? particularly for old, back-office systems that few of your staff may fully understand. Some of your IT may be old and complex, meaning that it’ll be hard to integrate it with new cloud technology. It may be easier to carry on running old IT yourself and not to bother trying to connect it to the cloud.

Working with a trusted partner, an IT supplier or consultancy, can make the move into the cloud less daunting and help you save time and money.

Your IT partner will help pick the right type of cloud (public, private, hybrid) and the layers of technology within it (e.g. Infrastructure as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service).
You can also get help picking the right supplier by using the UK government’s “G-Cloud framework” – an agreement between the government and supplier on the basic terms and conditions of cloud computing services. The government says that using the procurement framework is quicker and cheaper than doing individual deals with suppliers.

The human factor

A successful move to the cloud involves three things – technology, people and process.
Technology will include picking the right hardware and software, keeping data secure and creating a plan for moving different parts of your business to the cloud.

The people part of a cloud project will include training staff how to use the new technology and adapt their ways of working to the new technology.

The process part of a cloud project may include changing administrative procedures (e.g. payroll, HR forms) and checking that they’re compliant with regulations, such as Europe’s new data privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

What access to IT systems does each employee need? Where’s personal data stored. Does your supplier comply with data and financial regulations?

It’s a lot to consider. But as the benefits of cloud computing become clearer, delaying a move into it (even a gradual move) could leave your organisation playing digital catch-up with your peers.



The POLE data model – Person, Object, Location, Event – is a great fit with graph databases and graph algorithms to help security and investigative teams operating in areas such as policing, anti-terrorism, border control and social services, according to Emil Eifrem.

Put simply, graph databases are designed to treat relationships as first class citizens in the data model, making it simple to join up the dots in large amounts of seemingly random data. Graph database technology has been central to a number of global investigative projects such as the Panama and Paradise Papers where it was used to mine enormous datasets at scale.

Graph database technology is a powerful enabler at effectively spotting criminal activity such as uncovering fraud rings and uncovering patterns to break up organised crime. Providing these insights based on data connections is an invaluable way of supporting law enforcement agencies, social services and other government departments in their fight against crime.

A decade ago, a G8 country’s immigration authority, for example, adopted graph database technology to allow it to visualise relationships and connections to help them work more effectively with individual cases that had been flagged up by border control officers. It found that knowingly hidden connections stood out when viewed via a system created to manage connected big data. This allowed the team to run real-time queries to spot criminal networks and fraud rings. Something that previously had been complex and extremely time consuming.

Graph database technology is also being explored as a way to enable a highly responsive informal learning system including social media, designed to support rapid decision-making.

The concept is centred around how people are connected. If one person has come to the attention of the authorities, who are they connected to and are they worth monitoring. They may be in a relationship with someone who has previously been convicted for fraud, for example. These insights can be used to support ongoing criminal investigations or start new ones based on findings.

This level of complexity is very hard to capture through conventional database technologies. Graph database technologies have been designed specifically to mine this connected data and visualise the connections.

Taking POLE position

Law enforcement agencies are examining the use of the POLE (Person, Object, Location, Event) data model for working with crime data.

Graph database technology and graph algorithms’ ability to join the dots and find connections in large amounts of data makes it a natural fit for POLE, which can be extended even further by linking in data visualisation using software tools such as Bloom.

We recently took a public dataset of a one month’s worth of street-level crime in Greater Manchester, for example, and linked it to a number of data sources ranging from geotagging data to addresses to randomly generated personal data to see how intricate a picture of these connections we could create. We soon built a database of 29,000 crimes in 15,000 locations, generating a staggering 106,000 relationships between the nodes. This test [] shows the sheer power that graph technology can bring to POLE investigations, maximising resources – especially where policing departments are under budgetary constraints. Together they can quite literally re-shape criminal investigations on large and small scales.

There is little doubt that graph database technology and crime data can work together to drive data driven investigations and help law enforcement authorities, police forces and government agencies to better protect the public in a world where crime and security threats are on the increase.

The author is co-founder and CEO of Neo4j, the world’s leading graph database (



João Fernandes looks at the way navigation software has the potential to bring a whole range of improvements to everyday life.

Outdoor navigation technology matured many years ago; we now walk around with a detailed map of the world in our pockets. But what happens when you enter a building? The navigation drops out. That’s because map technology is enabled via GPS (satellite technology) is rubbish at picking up phone frequencies from within buildings.

Fortunately, solutions to this particular problem have already been developed. Most use Bluetooth beacons positioned around a building’s interior to ping a user’s mobile device, allowing an app to pinpoint the user’s location to within a few feet. Of course, there are more sensitive solutions which allow for centimetre-accurate positioning, but that’s usually overkill for something the size of a person.

These beacons are steadily becoming cheaper and more reliable, making them a cost-effective solution for most large and complex indoor environments, such as hospitals, airports, and sports stadiums. Every environment has its own unique technical challenges to be ironed out, however, meaning indoor navigation requires an expert consultancy rather than a DIY approach.

BuzzStreets, for example, is working on a number of pilot projects with hospitals, offices, and stadiums to iron out these kinks, while Google is offering DIY indoor mapping without navigation features.

Soon we will see the combination of these technologies, providing a quick and simple solution for public buildings, towns, shopping centres, businesses and hospitals of any size. At this point, we will quickly reach a critical mass and the whole world will be navigable – indoors and out. You’ll be able to go from your front door to the specific room, that you need to be in, within the building you are visiting. Navigation will take you all the way – not just to the outside door by reception.

But It’s not just about getting to the right place – it’s about the journey too. Indoor environments, particularly hospitals, civic offices, even shopping malls and offices, will need to change in order to engage visitors and supply them with the information they need.

Indoor navigation could also pave the way for a more automated system of moving people around. Doctors’ and patients’ schedules could be integrated so they know when to move from Orthopaedic Outpatient waiting area through to the x-ray room when it is their turn, for example.

While they wait, they could be provided with information about the procedure in the form of an augmented reality (AR) demonstration. The orthopaedic department may offer physiotherapy instructions, for example, making better use of the patient’s waiting time.

Imagine going into a shopping mall and seeing marine animals swimming through the air, with games and news appearing on virtual screens around you. As you approach your favourite footwear shop you can already see whether they have the shoes you wanted before receiving a special discount code. As you step inside the lighting changes and your favourite band plays softly in the corner.

When visiting an office or public building, indoor navigation data could be used to trigger events, such as pop-up videos and other information.

Some offices already display promotional information on screens dotted around the building. These could be made a lot more immersive, allowing the client to select the information they are interested in and save videos to view later on. They could even get a visual demonstration of how the council has been spending tax payers’ money and the benefits this brings.

Again, this isn’t necessarily a sci-fi vision. BuzzStreets is already playing around with AR ideas such as these to offer patients useful information and keep them entertained while they wait.

When handsfree, wearable devices become the mainstream, this futuristic vision will become a reality. Until then, we will still need to use our smartphones and tablets as a window to this world.

Data is the key. It’s big, it drives decisions and choices, it can make life easier. For hundreds of years we’ve been improving our transport systems, our public services, healthcare, and everything else, through a combination of guesswork and the scientific method. Results are slow to come and never seem to capture the whole picture.

With a global population of over 7,000,000,000 people and rising, the world can’t wait for the results of a five-year trial before making important changes. The world is too complex and fast-moving for that traditional approach. Gathering data in real-time allows us to put our theories to the test, develop new models, and make useful changes quickly and accurately.

How do people move around your hospital? What route do they take to the airport? Where does your mall get the highest footfall? When are people most likely to buy food at a stadium? Why are people visiting your office block?

Data can help answer all of these questions and many more. Businesses can optimise their environments to improve the user experience, save money, and change our lives.

The same approach can also be applied to inanimate objects, such as hospital equipment. If you need a specialist piece of equipment, but it’s not where it should be, location data can help you track it down. Perhaps you find that some equipment is regularly moving long distances through the hospital building, in which case perhaps it would save time and money to buy a second machine.

There are almost infinite ways in which the data gathered by navigation software could be used to improve our lives. The only limit is our imagination.

About the Author
João Fernandes is the Founder and CEO of BuzzStreets, a B2B navigation and location-based services solution. We combine indoor and outdoor navigation with technologies such as augmented reality and proximity-triggered offers, to create a bespoke solution for customer engagement. The analytics the solution can also be invaluable in improving building efficiency and keeping track of vital equipment. Particular verticals that could benefit from BuzzStreets include: Shopping Malls, Stadiums, Hospitals, Airports and Offices.




People who think differently have unique skills and talents which can be squandered without managerial awareness and careful thought. People who think differently have different brain functions which include dyslexia, autism, ADHD and dyspraxia.

According to a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the professional body for HR and personal development, only 10 per cent of organisations include neurodiversity in their HR People management practices.

The CIPD highlights the unique strengths of neurodivergent people which range from data-driven thinking to sustained focus over long periods, an ability to spot patterns and trends, and the capacity to process information at extraordinary speeds.

As a result of the findings of the survey, the CIPD, in collaboration with Uptimize, the leading provider of neurodiversity inclusion training, has developed a guide for employers to raise awareness and understanding of neurodiversity at work, and the simple workplace adjustments needed to enable people to perform at their best.

Dr Jill Miller, Diversity and Inclusion Adviser at the CIPD, said: “We’re just scratching the surface of understanding how neurodiversity at work can help organisations be more creative and innovative, but the insights we already do have show the unique value that neurodivergent individuals can bring to the workforce.

However, even at a time when employers are under pressure to identify new talent pools to fill skills gaps, recruitment and development practices are screening out such individuals and the unique skills they possess. Rather than measuring potential employees against a long wish list of capabilities, we need to be clear on the key skills each job requires and enable people who possess those to play to their strengths.”

“Ultimately, everyone has the right to feel accepted and included at work and organisations have a responsibility to be a place where everyone can reach their potential. While workplace adjustments will be dependent on individual need, they are often small and inexpensive, and many actually benefit everyone. Why wouldn’t you want a more navigable intranet or clearer communications with your manager?”

Ed Thompson, CEO of Uptimize, said: “In the past, attention was solely on the challenges faced by neurodivergent individuals at work, but now leading employers are documenting the huge advantages of employing people who literally think differently. We believe that embracing neurodiversity can be a significant competitive advantage – organisations have the opportunity to leverage the skills of this high potential, available talent pool. Our guide can develop employer awareness and understanding of neurodiversity and provides practical suggestions to make your organisation neurodiversity smart.”



New analysis by the leading think-tank for the North of England, IPPR North, has found that London will receive £4,155 per person, compared to £1,600 in the North. A gap of £2,555 per person.

This means that planned transport investment in London is almost 2.6 times higher per person than in the North. Yorkshire and the Humber and the North East are the English regions set to receive the least planned transport spending.

The new independent analysis comes after government published its own regional breakdown before Christmas and wrote to MPs claiming it had reversed the historical trend.

IPPR North has commended the government for sharing new data and producing its own “official analysis” of the national infrastructure pipeline but it claims many will find government figures misleading as less than half of planned spending is included.

Crucially, the government analysis excludes all spending which takes place after 2020/21 despite the infrastructure pipeline being a long-term planning tool.

Nearly £12 billion Transport for London spending is also excluded following a deal between the Transport secretary, Chris Grayling, and London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, allowing London to keep its own business rates to spend on transport. The deal means that London will no longer contribute to transport spending in the rest of the country and stands to benefit by £240 million next year and more in the years after.

Senior Research Fellow at IPPR North, Luke Raikes, said:
“Despite the Transport Secretary’s recent statements, London is still set to receive almost three times more transport investment per person than the North. This is indefensible.
“The North has been underfunded in comparison to London for decades, and our figures demonstrate that ministers have failed to redress this imbalance. This failure will continue to hold back the North and the country until the government acts.

“The government has improved their analysis of these figures but they have then excluded almost half of the spending for which they are responsible. A disproportionate amount of that excluded money is for London.

“Instead of disputing the figures the government needs to invest in the big, transformative projects being developed in the North such as Northern Powerhouse Rail.

“The government is making Transport for the North a statutory body but it must give it similar powers to Transport for London so that it can encourage business investment and borrow for its own infrastructure instead of going cap in hand to central government.”



Emma Toublic, head of education information and business systems at Essex County Council, talks about the local authority’s quest to create a single record of a child from birth to adulthood, and the positive impact this is having on the lives of children and families.

The benefits of joining up disparate sources of data to create a secure and central pool of knowledge on children and families cannot be underestimated. This has been our aim here at Essex County Council for the past two years.

We launched an initiative to bring different pieces of data together so that authorised staff within our education support teams have the information they need to see a fuller picture of a child’s life and circumstances.

It was not until we embarked on this journey that we realised what a difference it would make, both to our staff and to the families we work with.

Building a clear picture

Our ultimate vision is to create a single record of a child, from birth to adulthood that can be accessed by those staff who have the appropriate permissions and we are well on our way to achieving this.

The starting point to taking a more joined-up approach to data was to review the way our teams shared information about the children and young people they support. This was key to ensuring that the right information could be put in the right hands, at the right time.

If you are a caseworker for a young person with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who suddenly stops attending school, for example, your objective is to get the child back into the classroom as quickly as possible. But to devise an effective action plan, there are some key pieces of information you need.

You could make a more informed decision about how to support the child if you know that they were excluded from their primary school two years ago, for example, or that an older sibling in the household has a history of truancy.

The aim was to ensure practitioners can access the details they need to make good decisions for the children and families they are in contact with.

Creating a knowledge hub

The review of data sources revealed that Essex County Council had no fewer than 700 disparate databases, spreadsheets and filing cabinets of information used by children’s services teams.

This meant that it could take time for practitioners to gather the information they needed to establish the reasons why a child with SEND might start missing school, for example. Could it be due to problems with their daily transport? Or had the child been struggling to cope with incidences of bullying?

We wanted our staff to have these key details to hand so that they can
prevent delays in getting a young person such as this who has disengaged from school back into the classroom. So, using Capita’s One management information system, we changed the way we recorded and stored data and created a central hub for information on children and families.

Timely interventions

The system is the foundation stone for a single record of every child that will follow them through to adulthood. This view of a child draws together data right from early years, through primary and secondary school and into youth services.

Staff with the relevant authorisations can access this record, and add to it, whenever it’s necessary, smoothing the way for more effective multi-agency working.

So now, a caseworker can look at child’s record and see if there is a change in their circumstances or a parent who is receiving additional help from the council, helping them to make the right decisions at the right time to make a difference.

Information exchange

With a more effective way to share data in place, we can work more efficiently too. Previously, we would need to arrange meetings for up to 10 different people to discuss the support requirements for a vulnerable child and each professional would bring with them their paper records and notes.

But these days, authorised practitioners can access the system in a few clicks and see the details they need. With key data being shared securely across relevant teams, staff are much better equipped for informed decision-making.

Another key benefit of storing information centrally is that it is easier to support staff when they are out visiting families. Everything a practitioner needs to know about the family is on the system, so they will know and can prepare in advance if there is a dog at the address or there has been an incidence of violence reported, for example.

Future provision

One positive impact of launching this initiative is that it has enabled us to make appropriate arrangements for children not just now, but in the future too, as we have the tools we need to support accurate financial forecasting.

When we are notified of a toddler in the area with a disability, for instance, the relevant team has the information they need to support the family appropriately. It will also enable us to look ahead to the type of provision the family may need in the years to come, from transport to school, to help entering the workplace once they reach adulthood.

And if parents need to inform us of any changes in circumstances, it’s much easier for them to do so. They can go online and register a change of address, a new school or care need, and having told us once, everyone who needs to know will be informed.

Cloud technology

We want our staff to be able to focus their time on activities that support children and families. With this in mind, we opted to hold our data securely in the cloud, so staff don’t need to spend time dealing with day-to-day software issues, or systems maintenance.

With our software upgrades scheduled to take place overnight, or at a time that is convenient for us, the system is ready to use when our staff come into the office in the morning. One of our key tasks, processing offers for school places, took just 15 minutes this year.

Next steps

The next step is to bring in key information from our children’s centres, such as hearing test appointments and parenting classes. With registrar services incorporated, we will be well on our way to delivering our vision of a single record of a child.

This hub of knowledge will sit at the heart of the joined-up service delivered in Essex County Council, enabling us to provide early help where it is needed to improve the future prospects of children and young people across the region.



Students find difficulty in presenting their limited experience to a potential employer. Edd Williams offers advice on how to approach the challenge.

For 14 years, Edd Williams has helped people get jobs. He’s worked with global corporations and tiny SMEs, he has spoken to CEOs and graduate trainees. He has found engineers in South Korea and nuclear scientists who speak French to work in Norway on contracts. He’s spoken to literally thousands of people to understand what they are looking for in a job or what they are looking for in an employee. He’s coached them through interviews, to actively listen, to mirror body language, to ask the right questions, to be confident but not arrogant, the right way to shake hands, how to close the deal.

Edd has studied, edited and written over 100,000 CVs: 25-30 CVs a day, 260 days a year for over 14 years stacks up. His new book, Is Your School Lying To You? (Ortus Press, January 31 2018) is written for the next generation of employees. Edd believes that careers advice in schools, colleges and universities is past its sell-by date. Working for many years in recruitment, he knows what the job market demands, what employers look for and he now knows, through the statistics, anecdotal evidence and first-hand experience, that schools up and down the country just don’t get it. The work he does with students and employers has further convinced him that too many schools are lying to their students about what they should be doing to get the kind of careers and consequently the kind of lives they want. He’s trying to change all of this through his book – Is Your School Lying To You? – and his work at Duart Consultants.

Are you Experienced?

‘Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing.’ Oscar Wilde

Experience in this instance is less to do with age and how many times you’ve been around the block but rather the value of the activities you’ve taken part in, the situations you’ve put yourself in and what you’ve learnt from them. Doing something without learning from it can’t reasonably be considered an experience – it’s just something you did – but an admissions tutor, an employer, someone who can offer you help and guidance, wants to understand the how and why of your journey, what you’ve learnt along the way, how that knowledge and experience has benefitted you and how it informs what/how you do things and what you hope to learn as you continue.

Most students I’ve worked with or spoken to have had some form of work experience placement organised by their school. A laudable and noble aim but the vast majority of students tend to have a rubbish time of it, most of them seemed to either work in an uncle’s office doing photocopying, or in a primary school that their school had links to. Those are just two examples and may not reflect what happened/happens in your school, but overwhelmingly with the people I’ve dealt with, the placements didn’t speak to what they wanted to do or reflect where they wanted to go.

How do we change that?

Simply put, you need to get off your butt. The school can only ever do so much – remember this is your life, not theirs; if they’ve got to organise work for 150 kids some of you are going to slip through the net. If they were a lifeguard and you were drowning along with another 149 kids you’d probably give swimming a shot rather than bobbing up and down in the water. Take charge of your own life and sort out work experience that is relevant and interesting for you. Plus, businesses and people will respond much more favourably to someone with a genuine interest and passion for a subject who has the chops to come and ask for help rather than having a disinterested teenager being foisted upon them.

How do I organise it?

Same message as before, get off your butt and do it! The shiny-things-obsessed brain worm will find a way to encourage you to put it off, procrastinate, and otherwise derail your best intentions, but you need to just get on and do it. But how to begin?
• Identify the areas in which you are interested. This could be a variety of things – remember half the point of this exercise is to prove or disprove your interest in a certain area. If you’re not sure, give it a whirl, stick it on the list. A couple of hours out of your life is hardly going to derail the whole process and you might surprise yourself positively or negatively – either way it’s all good because you’ve learned a little something.
• Get on the internet, look at local companies that are working in this area, look at their websites; the more you know about them the more you can re ne who you approach and explain to them what specifically about them interests you.
• Ask your parents and parents’ friends and friends’ parents who they know. Is there anyone in your extended network that may be able to help you? Don’t be afraid to ask – they can only say no.
• Make a list of the companies most suited to what you want to explore.
• Develop a short sales pitch/rehearse what you want to say when you introduce yourself.
• Get on the phone, go to their offices, send them an email and make sure that your email address is work-appropriate, no ‘BigBoi69’s or ‘Sexylegs’ please. No one thinks it’s funny.
• That’s it! When you break it down like that it’s really not so very hard is it? Have a think, make some calls. Simple. Yet most people don’t do this anywhere near enough, if at all.


There are two important things to remember here – don’t try and be clever, and get to the point. People, generally speaking, are good eggs and will happily give you some of their time, but they owe you nothing, so do your research, be prepared and don’t waste their valuable time. You are entering their world, not they yours, so act accordingly – be professional, sincere, courteous and grateful.

Broadly speaking there will be three forms of approach – phone or email or turning up. Turning up is a pretty ballsy move as it pretty much demands an instant reaction; they may be impressed or if they’re busy or having a bad day it could push them over the edge. But with a CV and a winning smile the receptionist may take pity on you and give your details to the person you need. Otherwise it probably begins with calling their reception and asking who it is you need to speak to. Don’t overcomplicate it but do prepare in advance so you know what you are asking.
A simple example would be something like this:
‘Hi there. I was hoping you may be able to help. My name is X., I’m a student at X. I’m thinking about pursuing a career in X and was wondering whether there was anyone in the business
I could speak to about coming in to do some work experience just to get a sense of what it’s actually like?’

In all likelihood whoever answers the phone may say one of three things –
1. That’s not really something we do.
2. Yes, that will be Bob you need to speak to. Let me see if he’s available. (Other names may be available.)
3. Yes, the person you need to speak to is Colin (see?) I can give you his email address.
You should deal with any of these with grace and courtesy – rejection is a big part of life and work, so you mustn’t take it too personally. If you’ve spent ages steeling yourself to make that first call and you get shot down it can really wind you. Don’t be put off; it’s not you. How could it be? You said three sentences; sometimes companies just don’t do it. The next one may. If they put you straight through just remain calm; if you’ve done your preparation you should be just ne.

The important thing to remember is that you may have to answer questions, they will likely ask things like:
• What is it you want to do?
• What about this career interests you?
• What do you want to learn?
• What do you think we can teach you/show you?
• What are you hoping to get out of this?
• When are you available to come in?

It’s important that you have thought about these things in advance and have rehearsed at least a few responses. As I said earlier, they are giving up their time: don’t waste it by saying ‘erm’ and ‘I dunno, stuff and that’. Think about your objectives and be honest with them, don’t try and dress it up; people respond to honesty – they don’t expect you to be a polished professional with answers to everything but they will expect you to try to behave accordingly and at least have an idea about what your objectives are. How can they help you if you don’t even know what you want?

The final option is that you will be given an email address and a contact name and, much like with your initial pitch to the reception, you drop them an email explaining who you are and why you are emailing them. In this scenario don’t pester them, give them at least a week to come back before following up, at which point call reception again and explain the situation, asking if you could speak to them. If they don’t respond, don’t push the matter; sometimes life gets in the way. Ideally you will have a number of other approaches live at the same time so your eggs should be in lots of baskets.

As for what you need to do when you’re actually there, having secured your work experience placement, you’ll need to read Edd’s book – Is Your School Lying To You? out at the end of January 2018 on Amazon and in all good bookshops!

For more information click here.



The career path of a performer can be quite rocky. With little stability and a huge amount of competition for each job, trying to find financial stability can be very challenging.

For those performers who want to move on in their career, but stay in an industry in which they love, finding a long-term option in which they can make life plans is often high on the agenda.

A theatre school franchise, with almost 50 schools throughout the UK, has many retired performers as Principals. Through franchising, they have found a rewarding long-term career path and continue to grow their own schools and offer many opportunities for their students.

Charlotte Young is the Principal of Razzamataz West Cumbria. As a former professional dancer and singer, Charlotte joined Razzamataz as a teacher in 2005 and was later promoted to be a manager. Having seen the success of the schools, she decided to open her own Razzamataz in 2007, when she became a franchisee.

“The development of Razzamataz and the way it moves with the times has really kept me motivated,” explains Charlotte. “The Head Office team is always finding new opportunities for us to pass to our students and the amazing training and development that is on offer allows me to make my goals a reality.”

Helen Bell has been the franchise owner of Razzamataz Sheffield for more than five years although she started out as a singing teacher for the company back in September 2008. For Helen, who now combines being a theatre school Principal with caring for her newborn son, the opportunities that she has seen throughout her years are inspiring.

“I keep myself and my students motivated by creating lots of new opportunities for them to enjoy,” says Helen. “This is further supported by the work that Head Office do and in recent years, the students of Razzamataz Sheffield have been lucky enough to be involved with performing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End, Disneyland® Paris and participating in guest workshops with Ashely Banjo from Diversity. Next year, we are delighted to be part of the cast performing at the Indigo 02, which is a first for Razzamataz and very exciting for our whole team.”

Lauren Kirkbride began her time with Razzamataz as a student aged 11. She then went on to work as a teacher in 2011 and also two seasons with the First Choice Razzamataz team overseas. In September 2015, Lauren got the opportunity to take over the Penrith school.

“Being able to provide a range of opportunities to our students keeps me passionate about my school,” says Lauren. “From a student singing a solo for the first time to performing in the Disneyland® Paris pre-parade, it’s amazing to be able to create memories for them and build their confidence and self-belief.”

To find out more about becoming part of the Razzamataz network of Principals, contact Head of Franchisee Recruitment Suzie McCafferty on or call 07793 054 233. For more details visit:



An all party committee of MPs has called on the Government to devise a joined up, cross-government strategy to prevent homelessness.

Evidence to the committee revealed that across Great Britain, tens of thousands of households approach local authorities for support with homelessness. The number of cases of all forms of homelessness has risen in England, while remaining
steady in Scotland,

Between 2014 and 2016 rough sleeping rose dramatically by over 50% in England. The current safety net is clearly not working as efficiently as it could to prevent and resolve homelessness. The Government recognises this growing emergency.

Homelessness should be rare, brief and non-recurrent. In its first Parliamentary year the committee has developed strong cross-party support and provided a platform for homeless people to engage with Parliamentarians and inform the political dialogue surrounding homelessness.

The goal of the committee is to develop robust policy solutions to prevent and end
homelessness. Preventing homelessness is the focus of the committee, specifically looking at cohorts which are most at risk: care leavers, prison leavers, and survivors of domestic violence

Research revealed that one third of care leavers become homeless in the first two years immediately after they leave care and 25% of all homeless people have been
in care at some point in their lives.

Similarly, housing and homelessness are key issues for survivors of domestic violence. In 2016, 90% of women in refuges were reported to have housing needs and
in 2015/16, 6,550 people became homeless because of a violent relationship breakdown, 11% of all homeless acceptances. In 2015, 35% of
female rough sleepers left their homes due to domestic violence.

Twenty per cent of prisoners surveyed in 2014 said they had no accommodation to go to on release and there are many barriers which can make finding accommodation on release difficult. The committee argues that Departments should work in partnership to audit existing policies and design programmes to specifically support care leavers, prison leavers and survivors of domestic violence.

The committee’s report highlights that many people who are homeless can be readily identified before becoming homeless and local authorities and other local services could have taken action earlier. But the reality is that they slipped through the net.

Evidence presented to the committee shows that changes to the welfare system and
in particular, the introduction of Universal Credit, will have a particular detrimental effect on homelessness.

The committee called on the Government to take action and make the much needed
change to prevent people from becoming homeless. It urges the Government to take steps to prevent and end homelessness for care leavers, prison leavers and
survivors of domestic violence. They recommend that the Government establishes a joined up, cross-government strategy to prevent homelessness.

Departments should work in partnership to audit existing policies and design
programmes to specifically support care leavers, prison leavers and survivors of domestic violence. The committee believes that as Government has committed to putting prevention at the heart of its future working, and with the Homelessness
Reduction Act, and a manifesto commitment to launch a Homelessness Reduction Taskforce; there is an opportunity to bring together national policies and local frontline work to prevent and end homelessness for these cohorts for good.

The report is available here.