Greatest Expectations Training

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Greatest Expectations Training's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Greatest Expectations Training is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Team players – Director William
Guthrie and Tutor Mike Carr
Hopes for a new dawn –
streets ahead
Over the past decade Greatest Expectations have responded
to the educational needs of disadvantaged adult learners
across the North East. Using solutions that have been
tried and tested in the past, Greatest Expectations enables
hundreds of Teesside locals to get into employment and work
towards a more coherent system. Director William Guthrie tells
The Parliamentary Review
about the importance of training for
disadvantaged learners.
In the high-deprivation areas of the North East, we like a challenge. We also like
football. We celebrate successes all the more when goals are hard to find and the
goalposts are frequently moved. We may not back winners very often but we are
certainly passionate about our game. We train for life.
Working with disadvantaged adult learners can bring significant rewards – their
potential is immense. For more than 11 years, we have progressed many hundreds
of local Teesside people into work and employment. More recently, we have faced
a re-surfacing of a few traditional problems, typical of the 1980s, and one that is
new: we face difficulty promoting courses through the local dysfunctional DWP.
Rising to the challenge
We have well-tested solutions for the more familiar challenges, and the minority of
frustrating passengers are always turned around. Their issues are familiar but like
dentists and police officers, the people carrying the baggage seem to get younger
every year.
»Director: William Guthrie
»Established in 2009
»Based in Middlesbrough
»No. of employees: 14
»Services: Teaching and
developing the skills of the
Greatest Expectations
Highlighting best practice
Literacy difficulties and numeracy
will always pop up, along with the
perennial problems presented by those
struggling with addiction and those
who have recently been released from
prison. These things are not new. As
the greater numbers get closer to real
work, those who remain, referred to as
the “stock clients”, can often be more
difficult. It is fortunate but a mixed
blessing that our tuition is much more
entertaining than the 456 TV channels
that they get bored by at home.
A need for reform
The more surprising difficulty centres
on recruitment of learners from the
DWP and Jobcentre.
In Middlesbrough, our training
company trains over 400 mainly
unemployed learners a year. We often
seem to be kicking uphill. A lack of
investment in manufacturing doesn’t
help, and now supporting industry
is seen as an economic hangover
from the drunken days of subsidised
steel operations and coal-burning
power stations. Alongside some poor
transport-planning priorities funded by
fans of ever-faster trains to the south
and we can see the odds of winning
being stacked against us. The most
unusual opposition, however, comes
from publicly funded bodies designed
to help. The civil service Jobcentre
systems are simply not working and
they urgently need an overhaul.
When jobs are few and far between,
people will take a shot at almost
anything. The trouble is, the DWP
are still using structures and practices
generated in the 1970s. The brevity
of their coaching interviews would
make a doctor’s appointment seem
like an all-day event and skill training
gets promoted by officers with
little or no personal experience of
Managers manipulate the flow of job
applicants like some Cuban economist,
certain they understand labour markets
better than anyone. In this game,
there is no invisible hand at work –
not even the Hand of God. The DWP
have job coaches who try hard to
meet difficult targets working with
a seriously challenging client group
and too little time. Their claimants get
“customer care”, but seldom have
customers possessed such limited
buying power. Senior managers set
the strategy and fix the odds. At this
point, the game can end abruptly,
and sadly some claimants decide to
try to manage alone. Rarely can they
do more than drain their savings and
the “lucky ones” reluctantly stitch
together several part-time, poorly paid
Numbers dominate and the DWP
scores are all important. The blunt
implement of threatening benefit
withdrawal, known as “sanctioning a
claimant”, has been swung so often
at the wrong crowd that those it
should be targeting manage to avoid
it at every instance. The sanctions are
rarely implemented and have become
an empty threat. Our well-intentioned
frontliners often demotivate the most
determined, confronting those bold
enough to show dissent because
The Transporter Bridge,
built by skilled workers
and built to last
The DWP are
still using
structures and
generated in
the 1970s.
The brevity of
their coaching
would make a
seem like an
all-day event
Success despite the odds
Despite all these challenges, we
have been able to survive and thrive.
Our training base sits in the heart of
Middlesbrough town centre, a town
that was once called “The Infant
Hercules”. The vast majority of locals
are not work-shy, nor do learners
undervalue training and retraining in
readiness for the job they want most:
a job with good money and prospects
and a means of raising the family
and paying for another Christmas.
Although some training providers
do go under, we have always aimed
high and encouraged learners to do
the same. In summary, this is a good
place to train people with good people
From the outset, we took the learners’
needs on board. We also run a popular
children’s nursery and we are set up
accessibly close to the bus terminal,
railway station and cycle paths. We
took up residence in a disability-
friendly former Jobcentre building as
it made sense to set up where people
go already or where they have been
before. To perfect this formula, we
employed skilled trainers with many
years of experience and the best
credentials. They may not be cheap,
but they are almost always cheerful.
We try to look forward with
confidence and we speak out
whenever we see the need for change:
when the rules fail to keep pace with
the changing nature of the game,
or key players seem to take their eye
off the ball. We plan ahead for a
new future – developing skills for the
low-carbon arena with hydrogen and
battery technology and also preparing
for the new wave of offshore
industries. We let others train the hair
stylists and the call-centre operatives,
ready to migrate to the warmer
climates, south of the Watford Gap.
Our people tend to search longer and
look harder for the work on its way,
the economy worth building. When
the final whistle blows, they know
that they gave 100 per cent and, like
our footballers, they know they lack
premiership salaries, but a big price tag
never did guarantee a quality product.
Our team’s skills are second to none.
Game on.
We may not
back winners
very often but
we are
about our
game. We
train for life
Where goals matter

This article was sponsored by Greatest Expectations Training. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development