The Jewish Chronicle
Powerful boost for job-seeking women
NICOLA* APPROACHED Work Avenue after her recovery from breast cancer. Her career had taken her across the globe, in roles in international NGOs, but focusing on her health necessitated a three-year break from work. With no other means of support, she needed to take her place in employment again. Esther* had never had paid work, concentrating on raising her four children and caring for grandchildren. Financial changes in the household prompted her to take tentative steps to support her husband.
Hannah’s* youngest child had just started primary school. Before having her family, she had been a lawyer in a City firm, but Hannah felt such a role would be incompatible with family life. She was ready to return to work, but in a capacity that would allow her to juggle the diverse aspects of her life.
All three approached Work Avenue with poor self-confidence, but all three joined a ground-breaking inaugural programme, Empowering Women for Work. The 15 women on the programme, selected from 45 applicants, represent diverse ages, backgrounds and work histories — but all share the aim of becoming economically active as soon as possible, after a long gap.
The workplace has changed immeasurably in recent years and Work Avenue will bridge the gap by offering a multi-disciplinary cocktail of interventions, combining training in employability and other practical workplace skills with one-to-one coaching and real work experience in a professional environment. A key element will be a focus on transferable skills gained by women through voluntary or life experience, teaching them to map such skills against career aspirations and opportunities. Diana Wolfin, founder and CEO of the Changing Direction career consultancy and an expert in return-to-work schemes, who leads this part of the course, says: “People who seek work after a significant absence tend to focus on skills and qualifications they don’t think they have, rather than looking at all the benefits they do bring. I encourage the group to harness all their experience in a positive way.”
As well as employability training and workplace skills, the programme will include careers guidance, one-toone mentoring, mock interviews and, crucially, a commitment by Work Avenue to place each delegate in a work experience role reflecting their previous employment if possible, or introducing them to a working environment that continues to develop them.
Says Nicola: “A gentle introduction back into the workplace, by way of a supported placement, will be invaluable.” Hannah says: “I am hoping an introduction into alternative workplaces will start lifting the fog, so I can forge a new employment direction.”
Debbie Sheldon, Work Avenue’s CEO, says: “We know returning to work or embarking on a job search for the first time can be daunting. We are proud to offer programmes such as this to help demystify the process and assist the community in achieving financial independence. But all our regular services are still available and we are here to support all job seekers and budding entrepreneurs at any stage.”
*Names changed. Empowering Women for Work at Work Avenue started on February 25. See theworkavenue.org.uk for all employment and business startup services. Emma May is director of operations and employment, The Work Avenue Foundation