Sova were absolutely thrilled to have been named winner for the 2018 ERSA Employability Awards, sponsored by Clarion Futures, in the Youth Employment category for our work on Birmingham & Solihull Youth Promise Plus that currently is receiving up to £25 million of funding from the European Social Fund and Youth Employment Initiative as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England. The Department for Work and Pensions is the Managing Authority for the England European Social Fund programme. Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations. For more information visit

The award was presented to Sova’s Chief Operating Officer Sophie Wilson at a special ceremony in London on the 14th June hosted by ITV’s Lucrezia Millarini, with the keynote address delivered by the Minister for Employment, Alok Sharma MP.

Now in its sixth year, the ERSA Employability Awards celebrate best practice across the employment support sector and seek to demonstrate the day-to-day hard work and dedication of those working to improve the lives of jobseekers, communities and the wider workforce. 

The Youth Employment Award, sponsored by entitledto  recognises an exemplar provider who has demonstrated exceptional dedication to helping young people (aged 16 – 24) overcome barriers to enter and maintain work.

Dave Webb from the Birmingham Children’s Trust  had this to say about Sova’s nomination:

“As the Performance manager in the Birmingham Youth Offending Service with the responsibility to oversee the engagement of Young Offenders into Education, Training and Employment I have been hugely impressed with Sova’s work with our young people, and the work they have been doing with the Police teams across Birmingham.

Sova have been outstanding in their approach to positively engaging some of the most challenging and disengaged young people in Birmingham, to help them into employment.  The Sova Intervention workers have been working tirelessly, showing real commitment, determination and passion to help turn the young people’s lives around. I have been really impressed with the innovative and creative ways Sova and their intervention workers, have developed attractive interventions to create positive engagement opportunities through which the supportive relationships can then develop

What is particularly refreshing is the way the staff go the extra mile, as this is often where the difference is made. They don’t give up on our young people easily and the young people really respond positively to this, and Sova have achieved some incredible results.    

As an organisation Sova have always been flexible in their support, adapting quickly in response to needs of the young people. Sova mentors recognise that young people are often in need of a dependable supporter and advocate, who doesn’t over promise, but assists them to achieve, empowering them to make their own decisions and not be reliant on others. They believe passionately in the potential of our young people and the young people sense this and begin tom then believe in themselves. This is the kind of approach we need for our young people and Sova are brilliant at doing it. I whole heartedly recommend you seriously consider Sova for this Award.” 

ERSA received nearly 150 entries across ten categories demonstrating the breadth of work in the sector. The award entries were judged by Ashwin Kumar, Chief Economist at Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Tabitha Jay, Director of the Work and Health Unit, Gill Holmes, Senior DWP official and last year's winner of the Adviser of the Year award, Adrian Bailey of Prisoners Abroad. 

ERSA’s Chief Executive, Kirsty McHugh, says:

The 2018 ERSA Employability Awards celebrate the extraordinary achievements of individuals and organisations across the sector, from the frontline advisers working tirelessly to help people into work, to employers supporting local people into the workforce, and the jobseekers overcoming huge challenges to move into employment. They all richly deserve recognition for their achievements and the awards give us the opportunity to say thank you for their hard work.

Minister for Employment, Alok Sharma, says:  

‘I congratulate all the winners of this year’s ERSA Employability Awards for their hard work and dedication towards helping people of all abilities and backgrounds into work. It’s absolutely right that we celebrate these successes and the partnerships they represent which, against the backdrop of record employment levels we’re seeing across the country, is even more fantastic news.’