A look at Towards Work

Got job vacancies you’re struggling to fill? Suzzanne Charlton, from Groundwork Greater Nottingham’s Towards Work programme, explains why people who have not always had the easiest path in life have the strongest work ethic.

When your business is expanding and you need to recruit staff, how do you know you’ll get good people? You want employees who are reliable, keen to learn and won’t leave after a few weeks.

However, attracting these ideal candidates is another matter entirely.

Looking for a job can also be one of the most stressful times a person goes through in their life. It’s right up there with moving house and divorce.

There’s all the work involved in updating your CV, crafting the perfect cover letter, going to a nerve-wracking interview – only to receive a terse rejection letter in the post a week later.

But for some people, there are many more barriers than that. How do you go about applying for a job if writing is a struggle? Convince someone to give you a chance if you’ve been in prison? Recover your confidence if you once lost your home and were forced on to the streets? What if you’ve never been in employment before?

The truth may surprise you. Through the organisation I’m involved in, ‘Towards Work’, one of three employment programmes run through Derventio Housing Trust, I have met some truly inspiring people who have gone on to secure jobs through the training and support we were able to provide.

Towards Work is funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund, and Derventio is one of the delivery partners.

All of the people I’ve met have, in one way or another, hit a bump or two along life’s journey. And all of them have, through their own character and determination, turned things around. Now they’re probably the hardest working people their employers have ever seen. They’re definitely not about to leave their job after a few weeks; they value it too highly.

Take Emily*. Emily is a former resident of Derventio Housing Trust who had big problems in life due to her drinking.

But Emily wanted to turn things around. So she approached our programme, and I realised that one of the things I could do to help Emily was to get her started with her Maths and English.

Determined to learn, she achieved her level 1 in both those subjects. In December 2021, we helped get her a job as a cleaner in a care home. She has been there ever since.

Emily is a great success story, but there are many more. One of the people we helped now builds dry stone walls, one of the UK’s most celebrated traditional crafts.

There was one man who could not read or write. He had been gardening for the council for 17 years, but the contract was taken over by a new company, and he lost his job.

This man had never read a newspaper in his life. All the letters which came to his address, he had to take to his sister. The first thing we did was get him a Dictapen. Now he can read the paper, and understand the letters which come to his address. Then, I got him a job at a chicken factory. It’s just one of the ways we try to support people not just in gaining employment, but in improving their lives, too.

So how do we do it?

Through my role as a job broker, I have contacts with different companies and I’m able to match advertised roles with candidates who use our services.

It’s really about easing the process from both sides. We work with people who are out of employment and looking to get back in. We help them to overcome any barriers they may have. It could be a lack of training, or that they have not got a CV.

During the first appointment with a coach, we work out what their current situation is and what barriers need to be overcome so they can get in the right place mentally to think about employment. It could be they are lacking in confidence, or having never worked, they don’t know the right place to start. We provide in depth support to lead people to a place where they are happy to start looking for work or training.

When it comes to dealing with companies, we might step in by saying to an employer: ‘This person is awful at interview. She just turns into a bag of nerves. But if you are prepared to give her a couple of days’ work trial, I promise you she will be fantastic for your needs.’

Often, it’s just about encouraging employers to make small allowances. We just want them to be able to see that if they can make small accommodations, this person will be one of the best workers they have ever had. They might not be able to complete a job application, but writing skills may not be required in the role they are being asked to perform.

And guess what? It works. Our employers often tell us what good people we send their way: reliable, diligent, and cheerful.

Why is this? Towards Work is a voluntary programme. It is not mandatory for people to attend our services if they are referred to Derventio. What that means is that the people who come to us genuinely want to work. They want to get their lives back on track. That’s why we can offer the employers on our books such good people who will not let them down.

And that is rather remarkable, because the people who use our services have often been very badly let down themselves, whether by their family or by their job or by many other circumstances.

But they also know something else, that when you’ve hit rocky times, the only way is up. All they need is for someone to give them that chance. We find that when they are given it, they will repay the favour in spades, with many years of loyalty and hard work.

If you want to give us a try, contact the Towards Work team at bboreferrals@groundworknottingham.org.uk or visit Get Into Work – Building Better Opportunities | Groundwork Nottingham (towardswork.org.uk)


* Not her real name.