Big Up Blaenau Gwent – a blog by Gary Williams

New Directions Education has worked with schools across Blaenau Gwent since 1999. Our team have nurtured brilliant relationships with the entire community in order to understand their supply needs and the type of staff they need to nurture their students.

The region as a whole has often had a spotlight on it regards employment ratios, but we believed in the area so much we opened an office there – right in the heart of Brynmawr.
By 2015 69,500* people were listed as residing in the region – 62.3% of those individuals were of a working age. 64% of those of a working age were in employment (versus a 71.1% Welsh average).

A further 15.2% of those people were cited as students – those working to create a Blaenau Gwent of tomorrow.

I decided to dig a bit deeper and analyse how many of those working were employed in the education sector, I was pleasantly surprised. 11.1% of those employed in the area in 2015 were involved with the education sector – that against a backdrop of 10.4% nationally across the whole of Wales. Go Blaenau Gwent!

This is a region committed to raising standards, to creating new business sectors in the Ebbw Vale Innovation Centre (the former steel plant and home to our first office in the area) to the council’s ‘BG Effect’ initiative aimed at supporting companies within the region.

I wanted to know how much impact we had made in the area…in the last year at least. In 2016 we filled 2,649 shifts within schools and colleges in the county – that equates to a massive 19,191
hours paid work for residents.

I strolled over to the desk of our Blaenau Gwent Account Manager Rachel Allen and asked her what she thought of our relationship with the education community. A very proud representative for the region told me very passionately:

‘I have managed the Blaenau desk for New Directions for four years. I could have changed at a number of points to take responsibility for neighbours in RCT or Caerphilly (I couldn’t wrestle that region from Gemma Hill) but I don’t want to. Working with the schools in my area is a really rewarding day at work. I have seen schools grow through investment and their students achieve wonderful things. The people in this region are proud and it spurs me on to create a better supply offer for them. My teachers LOVE the area; they relish the opportunity to be part of something that is growing year on year’.

With all the challenges faced by the education community in Wales, my journey of discovery today leads me to the conclusion that we are robust enough as an agency to deal with all the nuances. From questions about supply liability to up-skilling the staff there, we always were and hopefully will always be the best supply partner to schools and colleges in Blaenau Gwent.
Have a good weekend all…especially the BG supply community – you make us proud!