Breaking down barriers to work
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Katie Hunter is a skills coach for Bromford – helping people to build their confidence, learn new skills and get into paid or voluntary work.
In this, her first blog, she talks about some of the challenges that people face when they’re looking to get into work and explains some of the things that skills coaches can do to help.
I’ve worked at Bromford for about two years – 18 months as a support worker in one of our young families’ schemes and the last six months or so as a skills coach based at the Lichfield Hub.
The experience I got from working with vulnerable families has really helped me to understand the challenges that many people face on a daily basis.
Too much focus is put on ‘actual’ outcomes like ‘how many people have you got into work?’ by some organisations in my opinion so I love the fact that every interaction at the work club is seen as being really valuable. I think that every time we talk to someone – whether it’s face-to-face or online – we are helping them take another step closer to being where they want to be.
We use different measures to show people how they are moving forward with their lives - it’s not just about getting people into work. We have a real mix of people who we work with and not all of them are ready to get a job.
Our aim is to help people break down any barriers to work they face – and we can only do this by offering a safe, relaxed and welcoming environment. There are loads of things that can stop people getting into work. Lack of confidence, poor health or a disability, childcare arrangements, transport problems and previous criminal convictions are some of the things we help people to overcome on their journey into work.
By focusing on where people want to get to and the things holding them back, rather than trying to push people into work, we’ve found that people are more likely to open up to us about where it is they want to be in life – and the help they need to get there.
One barrier that parents have is that many places that offer advice are not child friendly. Yes, children might be allowed to go along with their parents but there is nothing for them to do so they quickly get bored. Anyone who’s had children will tell you that once they get bored there’s no way in this world that you’re going to be able to focus or concentrate on anything but them. Being a mum myself I realised that parents need to be able to relax and enjoy spending time doing something to get the most out of it. That’s why I set up activities for the children while parents are getting the help and advice they need. I think it’s really important that parents don’t see their children as a barrier to making connections, building confidence and getting back into work. In my experience young parents especially seem to struggle and I want to help them more. The Children’s Centre currently run similar courses to us and I’m hoping that we will be able to link up more with them in the near future, giving more opportunities to young parents – watch this space.
I think it’s really important that people feel relaxed and one thing that’s always said is how different the Lichfield Hub is to the JobCentre. Social interaction is key to building confidence, so it’s vital that we create a thriving community of people who can offer each other support whilst learning new skills and looking for work. It hasn’t always got to be about work either – it’s all about your aspirations in life, whatever they may be.
I love being creative and thinking of ways to attract people in – it’s surprising how many people don’t know we’re here and that our service is free. A good example of how my love of fun turned into something really positive is when I put on a pumpkin carving event for Halloween last year. A lady who had never been to the Hub before came along with her children and felt so at home that she came along to one our regular sessions the following Wednesday. Within a month she had been offered a temporary Christmas job at Debenhams which has now turned into a permanent position – something she says she could never have imagined before coming along to the work club.
I’m working on an idea for an Easter event at the moment – I’m thinking something along the lines of ‘Easter Hunt-er Job’ – you see what I did there? Hunter – Hunt-er! Never mind. The idea is that we place jobs inside Easter eggs and hide them – when you find an egg, you have to apply for the job inside. The reasoning for this is that sometimes we can get trapped into a way of thinking – not realising that we have many transferable skills and playing Hunt-er Job will encourage people to think outside the box a little when looking for work.
Although we love it when people come in, we appreciate that this doesn’t work for everyone. I’m sure most people out there are on Facebook and this is proving to be a brilliant way of sharing opportunities. I’m always posting jobs and information about events that are coming up.
Although I don’t work in the evenings, it’s no problem to share jobs on Facebook when I come across them. I shared an advert for a job as a cleaner recently with one of the customers who comes into the work club when she can – I knew that she was looking for this kind of work but she’s really hard to get hold of on the phone. She saw the advert and applied for the job the next day. I also shared a customer service job in this way with someone I thought would be perfect for it - she applied for the role and is waiting to hear if she’s been successful. Without social media there’s a chance that these two people might not have seen these opportunities.
It’s ‘Get Online’ week soon) and we’ll be running a drop-in session on 16 February to help as many people take advantage of everything that the world wide web has to offer.
The Hub has something going on most days including training courses, work clubs and coffee mornings. To find out more about what’s going on and discover the latest courses on offer and the days that they are running please email me Katie.firstname.lastname@example.org or Kayleigh Young at Kayleigh.email@example.com or call 0330 1234 034.
Although I’m based at the Hub in Lichfield, we have skills coaches all over the place who all offer the same help and advice as I do. If you think we could help you or just want to find out more call 0330 1234 034 or email Eleanor.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch out for my next blog when I’ll talk about our Steps To Success programme – in the meantime don’t forget to like us on Facebook to keep up to date with what’s going on.