Startup Diaries: The Bright Back to Work Programme and Battling the Skills Funding Agency

Image to accompany Krissy Charles-Jones article for The NextWomenIn December 2011 Krissy Charles-Jones, Founder and CEO of Bright Assessing, launched a Government funded course helping those who were unemployed to retrain to get back into employment. Despite the amazing work being done to help the unemployed, Bright nearly lost everything due to a Government subcontractor. Female Entrepreneurs are fantastically strong women and Krissy Charles-Jones wasn’t about to go down without a fight…

We spoke to Krissy about why it hasn’t always been easy, how to overcome the challenges and move on.

My advisors and I were speaking with unemployed people daily, who had ideal career experience yet just needed a helping hand to actually gain the qualifications needed to start a new career assessing and training others. After failed attempts at speaking with a variety of Job Centres I decided to go straight to the top and see if there was any funding available to help people in these situations.

I was delighted when we secured a contract of £100,000 from a Skills Funding Agency (SFA) subcontractor. We launched the Bright Back to Work Programme and began training unemployed people as Assessors immediately.

The Bright Back to Work programme was an overnight success; we had so much demand for the course that there were not enough places or staff to cope!

When this happens you have to act quickly - after consulting my senior team we decided to split the team into two and have a restructure. This enabled the business to be more organised and structured given the new revenue stream we had identified.

Then in February we received devastating news. I received a call from the Prime Provider who explained, “I’m really sorry but we can’t fund your learners and all the starts you sent us are not on the SFA system. Therefore you will not be receiving the funding as previously arranged.”

I was outraged – this could ruin the Bright Back to Work Programme we had worked so hard to create, as well as crush the hopes of the amazing unemployed learners with bags of potential that would make fantastic assessors. I became determined to fight this and ensure that Bright gave as much help as possible to assist the learners get their qualification and get back to work, thereby helping the economy.

I took my story to the top of the SFA and, after 4 very stressful weeks, they agreed to help Bright and our unemployed learners.

Bright were treated very badly by the original subcontractor and our business was put at severe financial risk.

We may have had to make redundancies and wouldn’t have been able to provide support and training to the thousands of unemployed people that have been through the Bright Back to Work Programme since.

The funded Bright Back to Work Programme has now been developed and rewritten to provide people with the Level 2 Certificate in Employability, ensuring they have all the skills needed to become an active Assessor. I hope that Bright can continue to provide advice, guidance and qualifications to the unemployed for years to come.

My top tips for fellow entrepreneurs:

  • Always follow your instinct even if you are advised to do the opposite by an expert. Always follow your instinct- true entrepreneurs’ instincts are never wrong!
  • Learn from all of your mistakes, use them as a positive learning tool and believe that everything happens for a reason.  For example, if you lose a massive contract it was meant to be but you won’t know why until the future; maybe that contact was with a huge customer that will go under and you would have ended up being out of pocket/ not paid.
  • Take risks even big ones, but only calculated risks; make sure that you have though it through properly and again, use your instinct.
  • Coach your staff and reward hard work and results so you can build a loyal and hardworking workforce. 
  • Most importantly work hard, work in the evenings, weekends and whenever you have to in order to get your business to where you want it to be.

Krissy Charles-Jones is the young, innovative entrepreneur behind online training provider, Bright Assessing. The mother of two created Bright Assessing in the wake of personal redundancy. Bright Assessing now trains people to become Assessors and Teachers within vocational learning and have helped over 2000 of the unemployed retrain since December 2011. 

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