• The Business Owner

Company Overview - The FE People

Name: Faye Harding

Company Name: Simplified Recruitment Group – Trading as The FE People

Position: CEO

Industry: Further Education

What does your company do?

The FE People is a new development, short for ‘The Further Education People’. It is a web-based platform that allows colleges and training providers to connect with further education freelancers. Currently if a college of training provider require a member of staff for an interim role, or short-term cover for sickness/holiday cover, or last-minute courses they have to approach agencies. Agencies can be inefficient. They have multiple clients they are trying to support and a limited database of candidates. The FE People aims to build a national database of all freelancers working across a range of roles including: Tutors, Assessors, IQA’s, EQA’s, EPA’s, Curriculum Writers, Bid Writers, Interim Directors plus enrolment and invigilation staff.

Every freelancer is fully vetted before being added to our platform. We ensure they are on the DBS Update system meaning they can instantly start work the next day, we also check their ID, insurances, right to work in the UK and certifications to ensure they are qualified to do the role they are being hired for.

This means a college or training provider can literally start a candidate the next day without waiting weeks for recruiters to source candidates or hold ups due to DBS checks. Also, freelancers have an availability calendar, so when a college does a search for a freelancer, they only see the profiles of those that are available on the dates they need them, meaning they aren’t wasting time discussing opportunities with candidates that aren’t available.

The benefit for freelancers is that we market them for free, there is no charge for them to use the platform and they get exposure to colleges and training providers across the UK. Since Covid there has been an increase in courses being ran online and remote working which this platform supports.

There is also an app coming in the next few weeks meaning that freelancers can manage their bookings on the go.

What changes or challenges do you foresee for your company in the next three years?

The FE People is the first of many platforms, we own the software which has taken a year to develop. We plan to revolutionise the recruitment industry across multiple sectors. Watch this space.

Are you optimistic, realistic or pessimistic about 2021?

I am very optimistic There has been a lot of funding allocated to the Further Education Sector as a result of Covid, many people requiring redundancy or retraining due to cutbacks in their industry. This will mean a surge in demand for freelance staff in this sector. Also, we provide training for those looking to become Tutors and Assessors, so anyone with 5 years industry experience in their sector could retrain to become an educator, we hope to support people from Retail, Hospitality, Care, Construction etc to qualify so they can help train the next generation of young people that will move into these job roles once the world returns to normal and the industries recover.

What is the most important task you carry out each day?

Every day I come up with new ideas for the platform to make it better for our users. I have 6 years’ experience of working as a consultant to many colleges and training providers across the country and still carry out some of this work now. By identifying my client’s pain-points it helps me to create ideas to improve processes and build systems into the platform which tackle some of the issues they face day to day to make efficiencies.

What is your company’s most important KPI?

As a new platform our most important KPI at the moment is verifying freelancers. We need enough freelancers on the platform to make it a viable solution for the colleges and training providers we aim to support. As we manually verify each freelancer this is time consuming, and we need to ensure that this is done correctly. We are currently working on developing AI that will automate this process fully in the future which will speed up the onboarding of freelancers.

What positive effects has your company experienced during lockdowns?

Lockdown enabled me to have the time to develop this company. I received a £10,000 grant from the council back in June for my other business Connect 2 Employment which is a small training provider. I decided to invest this money into starting the development on the software behind The FE People, as the idea grew it required more and more funding which I have managed to generate and a year later we have finally launched. Without lockdown I never would have found the time to work on this.

What causes you the most stress in your business?

My development team, we have a love hate relationship. I think up amazing ideas for features and then they slam the breaks on and tell me it will be another 6-8 weeks of development time. I’m extremely impatient. Having ADHD, I find it hard to hold back and I can be impulsive at times. This has been an amazing learning curve for me as I initially had a development team who promised me the world and wasn’t able to deliver, which wasted around 6 months of my time. My new time are a lot stricter with me, but also realistic and explain the complexities of making changes. I know realise sometimes something that can seem like a small change can actually impact the whole of the site.

Also, security features are key with a site like this and every time I come up with a new feature, I have to wait for it to be tested to ensure that there are no data breach risks as we hold a lot of personal confidential information about our freelancers. These things just can’t be rushed no matter how stressful the waiting is, it needs to be done right.

If you could instantly change one area or thing about your business, what would it be?

I would have a bigger budget, to be able to bring in more developers to speed things up, a bigger marketing budget and also more administration support, but Rome wasn’t built in a day! The concept of the business is solid, and it will grow organically.

How important are the following?

  • Environmental - The platform is fully virtual, we don’t need freelancers to drop into our office to register, we don’t need them to visit colleges and training providers to go through inductions and onboarding as it can all be done remotely.

  • Strong financial data - This is an area that is being developed and will continue to improve the as we have more users on the platform. We have literally just launched so this is work in progress.

  • Sales pipeline – We have had great feedback from colleges, training providers and freelancers all expressing that they feel there is a strong need for this kind of platform as it simplifies things and makes recruitment for short term contracts much easier. We expect to have over 5000 freelancers registered within the next year

  • Team communication – Our team are all remote and many of them working from overseas, we speak daily. The head of my development team Riyad is a god send because he manages to sort out the confusion of what is racing through my ADHD brain and relay it back to the team in a logic way so that they can implement the ideas that I have. I am the visionary but without his technical capability we would not be where we are. We have actually never met in person although I do plan to attend his brothers wedding in Bangladesh later in the year. (Subject to travel restrictions).

  • Social media - The main focus of the activity for the site at the moment is LinkedIn, I have around 18,000 connections many of which are for the FE sector however we haven’t massively pushed social media at the moment. As I mentioned before I have worked with many colleges across the country and have been relying so far on these relationships to launch the platform as my core group of users however we have just engaged a marketing company and created a 12-month strategy which incorporates our approach to social media.

What do you do to unwind?

It’s extremely sad, but work is life for me at the moment. I spend my free time developing new ideas, completing training courses to improve my understanding of areas of the business where I am not so strong, I have recently completed Prince2, Scrum Master training and also the Business Analyst Certificate. I am now completed a postgraduate in Leadership and Management. When I’m not working or studying, I spend time with my 13-year-old son, I’m a bit of a prankster at home, so I spend time trying to find ways to make lockdown fun and to make him laugh, as well as going out on long walks. He’s also a budding entrepreneur so I have been teaching him about web and app development, online marketing etc. Hopefully though with the restrictions being lifted soon we can get out and about more and have some real fun, holidays, theme parks, sports! That’s how we usually spend out time together.