Why we launched job-creation foundation which pays & develops recruits

I hope that our CSR journey at BE Fuel Cards, where we’ve launched a ground breaking job creation Foundation, encourages other businesses to take up the CSR mantle.

One of our historical challenges at BE Fuel Cards – a company based in Hunslet, South Leeds, which supplies BP fuel cards to UK businesses – has been recruiting and retaining telesales staff – in spite of the great incentives and potential earning power we offer.

Although by no means critical, the situation was frustrating, and, had we let it continue for another couple of years, could have impacted on the growth of the business which has posted a 20% year-on-year increase through the recession and beyond.

Our solution was to set up The Bayford Foundation – a pioneering training and development programme which offers a life transforming springboard for the right people who are seeking to aspire to heights that they may have previously only dreamed of.

The Foundation is investing up to £5,000 to put each recruit through rolling 12-week bootcamp training programme and pay them a salary for its duration. Successful candidates will be awarded a university recognised qualification from the University of Derby and progress to earn a minimum £16k annual salary with us – with the potential to ramp up their earnings as they progress with us.

With 40 jobs up for grabs in the short term – and hundreds of long term job opportunities in the pipeline – we’re not seeking recruits with a wealth of sales or business experience. Where they have come from – and what they have previously achieved or failed at – is irrelevant to us.

The common factor binding them is their passion and commitment to reach their full potential and be successful within a highly competitive and dynamic market place. In the words of our head of sales Ros Shaw: “We’re looking for sparkly people – because sparkly people create sparkly businesses.”

The Foundation is our way of giving something back to the local community. Our ethos is to provide quality, recognised skills’ training and create real jobs for local people who might not otherwise have a chance to succeed in business.

Our training programme will equip students with product, sales and market sector knowledge. A holistic approach means the programme will integrate personal development and lifestyle sessions such as exercise and yoga.

Another milestone sees Yorkshire MDs and CEOs from wide-ranging sectors signing up to support us – pledging their time and expertise to mentor and motivate our students via guest lectures ranging from dancing lessons and managing their personal finances. Presenters include sports psychologist Simon Hartley who coached double Olympian and Commonwealth champion swimmer Chris Cook for seven years – and who describes the Foundation as ‘life-changing and sustainable’.

The countdown is underway to the launch of our first boot camp which kicks off on Monday, August 12 when we have 14 potential new employees aged between 18 and 39 – all of whom are long-term unemployed from all walks of life – who are excited and delighted to be on board.

As you’d expect from a business which thinks outside the box, we sought our candidates out through a creative recruitment process which saw us host vibrant auditions with a difference at a popular local community centre.

Thanks to referrals from wide-ranging organisations we had forged partnerships with such as the Princes Trust and the local Job Centre – the auditions attracted 30 potential candidates who threw themselves wholeheartedly into interactive workshops on listening and selling skills.

The buzz was palpable as the potential recruits enjoyed the opportunity to progress to shine and be the best that they can be – and their feedback reinforced our powerful belief in our vision and processes.

Fawwad Atiq told us: “It’s brilliant how the Foundation programme gives people a chance to ‘earn as they learn’. This is a unique course and the auditions have been interesting and fun. I’ve not heard of anything like this before.”

Elley Aston from Beeston, who heard about the auditions from her local Job Centre said: “I was initially a bit sceptical when I heard about being paid as you learn and thought it was all too good to be true. It’s amazing what the Foundation is doing and giving someone like myself a job opportunity like this.”

The benefits and ‘win-win’ we’ve derived to date have been enormous – and have just scratched the surface of the wealth of opportunities ahead. Seeking out powerful community partnerships has opened doors to great organisations led by caring and driven people who are keen to refer those seeking a job to us. Our business networks have been extended with bosses booked in for guest speaking slots during our boot camp training programme and CEOs and MDS are offering to mentor the students.

The excitement and buy in from our existing BE Fuel Cards team is phenomenal with their hard work in planning the integration of the current team with the new team about to come to fruition – not to mention the positive vibes as we watch the dedicated new boot camp offices taking shape.

Highlights to come include our current and new teams performing a pantomime for the Leeds Children’s Charity which sends 350 children each year from the most deprived areas of Leeds to its holiday centre on the border of Lancashire and Cumbria. Week six of our boot camp programme will feature an Apprentice style competition when the recruits will set up market stalls with proceeds raised also benefiting the charity.

Aligned with the Foundation’s ethos of sustainability, we’re already planning to host another series of auditions with a difference in readiness for our next boot camp.

This time last year I would never have dreamed that we’d be on the verge of what will be for me and our BE Fuel Cards team a momentous and historic career highlight in which we’ve developed and launched what we believe to be the first Foundation of its kind in the UK.

With latest statistics highlighting that Britain faces a shortfall of almost 400,000 jobs for young people It is richly rewarding to know that we’ll be making a difference to the lives of dozens of people and helping them to be the best that they can be. I also know that our ‘sparkly people’ will equally motivate and inspire myself and my team to new heights as we transform our vision into reality.