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Bridging the Gap Inc. (BTG) is a non-profit organisation with a 35 plus year history of providing valued and successful services to people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our Mission, ‘To bridge the gap and build communities by empowering disadvantaged and disenfranchised individuals to build their self sufficiency through social inclusion, practical training and enhanced employment opportunities’ is the guiding force that has shaped, and continues to shape, the strategies that enable us to impact the communities we have served for the past 35 years.
BTG has a proud history of actively supporting the communities it serves through employment services and it is with great pride that we are still proudly supporting this goal through our current programs.
Since late 2016 we have moved much more towards preparing, training and empowering people with the skill sets and most importantly, the confidence to take on the challenge of employment through the various projects we deliver. It is increasingly clear that it is these skills that are critical to ensuring that when someone does find a job, that they will remain in that role for much longer.
Like many other organisations in the employment service sector nationally, the impacts of the tough economic times and changing government policies that started in 2015 have continued to have ramifications through to the start of 2018. The loss of the Job active contract hit BTG hard resulting in redundancies and reduction in staff of 70%; this affected the 2017/18 financials which showed a small year on year deficit. This also affected the business morale much more than was first realised.
Time for Change
In late FY 2018 the business experienced some internal disruption which resulted in the loss of our CEO and the appointment of Tracey Davenport, our long serving accountant at the time, into the Acting CEO role. This disruption gave the board a clear indication that change was needed and in August 2018 the board elected me as the new Chair and as a board, we immediately set about initiating a root and branch review of the business in order to secure our future sustainability.
A specialist change management consultant, was engaged to provide a comprehensive review of the business culture, financial structure, strategic leadership, program management, HR resources, infrastructure, business structure, personnel, processes and systems. The consultant was tasked to provide recommendations on how to change the culture, modernise, revitalise and bring the business back to profitability to prepare the business for the next 35 years of life. The review was completed and presented to the board in December 2018.
As a result of the review, some 11 major and 56 minor recommendations were tabled. In early January the board accepted all 56 recommendations and immediately formed two implementation working groups to begin the process of change and implementation of the recommendations. It was then an intensive period of four months of regular implementation meetings involving all board members and the CEO and Senior staff, along with workshops, staff training in new policies procedures and systems began.
One of first decisions the board made was to confirm Tracey Davenport in the Role of CEO, enlisting her support to implement the remaining 55 recommendations to restructure, realign, refocus and streamline, the business.
One of the other major recommendations of the review was to restructure and modernise the remuneration structures of all staff including management. This was a particularly difficult and delicate process but was achieved with the support from management and staff with the business jettisoning outdated remuneration models becoming more modern in its structure and with all staff either experiencing no change or being better off in a structure that better rewards performance excellence.
Closely correlated with the issue of remuneration was the HR function within the business which, as a small business, was not a full time role. This led to the search for efficiencies and best practice in this area and subsequently the introduction of new HR, Training and Induction processes which are backed up by a new, cutting edge HR system called ItelliHR, which is an end to end, AI driven, software based performance management and supervision system that incorporates automated employee feedback, coaching and mentoring to ensure that best practice processes are in place followed and tracked to support our culture of service excellence.
This system will provide the board and management with the ability to generate immediate business wide HR analytics and support management to make strategic HR decisions as well as mange the HR process including reviews, KPIs, Job Descriptions, Key competencies, roles and responsibilities and allow for comprehensive training and induction procedures, and management of training plans. We believe this to be a game changer for organisations in the not for profit space and welcome the efficiencies it will bring.
Another risk that was identified is the high dependence on federal and state government tenders. To address this risk, with guidance and encouragement from the board, our CEO has instigated a program of growth and diversification which will hopefully result in the creation of our first social enterprise, which, if successful in December of 2019, will effectively be funded by external revenue.
This successful diversification away from pure employment services has resulted in constant and manageable growth of the business. Commencement of programs such as Parents Next (commenced in July 2018) Employability Services Training Program (EST, extended in April 2019 until June 2022) and the addition of the Regional Employment trails and Moorditj Mia Mia program forms a solid platform for the next financial year on which to build in the medium term. Our continuing programs include Employability Skills Training (EST), Career Readiness for Young Parents, Jobs and Skills Centre, industry specific nationally recognised training via our RTO, providing programs for people with a disability, Indigenous Employment Programs, Career Support, and Youth Engagement in Skills and Employment.
Another milestone was achieved this year by Penny our RTO manager who successfully achieved reaccreditation for our Registered Training Organisation’s Status which has enables us to accredited training throughout the year. We are now reaccredited for another 7 years.
Reaping the rewards
With this new focus, new leadership both at board and executive Level, and with our operations realigned with our vision and mission, we are delighted to say that the business generated a surplus in 2018/19 of $490,000, and our head count has grown from 25 to 35 staff and improved our equity position to $1.13 million. A pleasing result.
There is a clear feeling that BTG has turned the corner and has been revitalised and “renovated” from the inside out, with, new leadership, stronger, modern systems, policies and procedures, improved IT infrastructure the removal of old outdated ideas and structures having combined to deliver a better commercially focused culture, and stronger morale that is making the business more efficient, cost effective and able to achieve our mission sustainably. Yet there is still much to do.
We are, however, already seeing the impact of the above changes having been successful in gaining further business with the forecast surplus for the 2020 financial year looking like approx. $240,000, with further contracts and tenders in the pipeline.
Our employees’ contribution to this result cannot be overlooked and is reflected in the quality of service and performance results that were equal to, and in many cases surpassed, other employment services providers. The Board takes comfort in knowing that we now have a united and highly motivated team that do exemplary work and are the heart and soul of Bridging the Gap.
My deepest gratitude must go to our Chief Executive Officer, Tracey Davenport and her Executive Team Laureen Weyell and Penny Crittall, and of course Janet, Jebba and and the whole executive team whose loyalty, enthusiasm and positivity have shone brightly throughout a demanding year. I thank them for their tireless dedicate to their programs, their clients, their teams and the business.
My deepest gratitude must also to my fellow Directors for their continued support, commitment and hard work they contribute each month, but particularly through the review implementation process. During this period there were a few changes to the board with Sarah Thompson stepping down. And Wayne Milnes Stepping down from the Chairman’s role in 2018. On behalf of the board, I formally acknowledge the contribution these Directors have made to Bridging the Gap.
BTG looks to the future;
As Federal and State Government funding becomes more difficult to obtain BTG will continue to innovate, adapt and overcome any hurdles, and will continue to thrive by diversifying its skill set and ability to deliver real impactful outcomes.
We continue to look for opportunity in any area that can support our core mission and we pride ourselves on our responsiveness to change, ability to innovate, identify and grasp different opportunities and deliver an array of different, yet similar services that enable us to deliver on our vision.
BTG, its board, executive team and staff remain committed to its mission and will continue to look for further diversification by way of new programs and initiatives. As a not-for-profit we must continually look to find the most efficient and cost-effective ways of servicing our clients and their communities while meeting the social needs within available program funding in order to make a difference to the people in our community providing them with a hand up not a hand out.
Les Hayward Chairman