Turning the lockdown into an employability success
To celebrate Employability Day, Building Futures Project Manager Allan Potter talks about the challenges and strengths of supporting people in Buckinghamshire into learning and work during the coronavirus pandemic.
The health concerns and restrictions brought by COVID-19 had a huge impact on the Building Futures project with partners questioning how we could continue delivery. Will participants stop engaging if we support remotely? How can we make sure the support provided continues to be of a high standard? What use is employability support if nobody can start work?
We found ourselves in an unprecedented situation and quickly turned it into a positive. We reviewed the methods of contact available and ensured partners and keyworkers had the flexibility to reach participants in a way that was comfortable for them and that met their IT skills and resources. Telephone, email, SMS, video chat and, Discord chat have all been used to stay in touch with our participants. In a surprising turn of events, we even found some engaged better using these methods.
Once we had identified our most vulnerable participants and ensured they had the wellbeing support required to meet their health needs, we then looked at our employability support. The project has a toolkit of materials for use across the partnership which we found to be highly appropriate for remote use. Using our links with the local Bucks community such as the Workability Group we then updated our keyworkers on the training that had moved online.
The personal development of our participants has been a large focus during the lockdown and we have been able to provide support to help them access local and national courses as well as using the Department of Education’s online learning platform The Skills Toolkit. One of our partners, for example, has supported four participants in starting a Level 2 Business Admin course, which will provide them greater opportunities as more vacancies become available once restrictions end. Another partner, the Healthy Living Centre, has sourced a Sign Language course for a participant who would like to find employment working with the deaf.
Employment opportunities have been more difficult to find and of course some of our participants are nervous about entering employment at this time. However, our Senior Keyworker Katie Allen is searching and sending out vacancies dailyto keyworkers to use with participants. One of our participants has used the lockdown to develop a family e-commerce business and has moved into self-employment, which is great news.
I am very proud of the proactive way in which Building Futures has met the challenges of the lockdown and we all agree that the learnings we have gained will make the project stronger in the future.
Here is some feedback from participants we have support during lockdown:
“I have found you have gone far beyond your remit in a very positive way, to helping me during this difficult time. You have listened to my outpouring patiently and offered me various extra advice and pointers, which have been immensely beneficial to me. So thanks again.”
“Helen at Building Futures has provided me with invaluable support. I am emerging from a long period of mental health struggles and her guidance has helped me in finding my feet again. From helping me rework my CV, to being introduced to local organisations where I have completed workshops & also begun education.”
Building Futures is a dynamic partnership focussed on changing the lives of adults and young people lacking opportunities across Buckinghamshire. The programme is funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund.
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