The Jewish Chronicle

Powerful boost for job-seeking women

- BY EMMA MAY

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

 ??  ?? Inspiring words for women returners from Judy Silkoff of the Federation of Synagogues
Inspiring words for women returners from Judy Silkoff of the Federation of Synagogues
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