Towards Work Helping James Back Into Work - Despite Lockdown!

Posted 01.09.2020

For a programme that prides itself on face-to-face interaction and building the trust of participants through meeting someone in person, Towards Work work coaches and personal navigators have adapted exceptionally well to maintaining levels of support to participants throughout the coronavirus lockdown.

Participants who have already been engaged on the Towards Work programme have been kept regularly up-to-date and in contact with their Towards Work work coach through virtual means to maintain safety. Things that have worked particularly well have also been the use of Whatsapp and other social means, like weekly quizzes on Zoom.

One of the best things that has been achieved throughout lockdown is working with participants to move them closer to the labour market and in to employment.

Joe Michael is a work coach on the Towards Work programme, based at Derventio Housing in Erewash, and is a fantastic example of going above and beyond to help keep momentum during a pandemic and continue to meet the participant’s needs and responding to an opportunity.

Joe had been working with a participant – here we will refer to him as James – prior to lockdown requirements. An action plan and setting of milestones had already taken place following a comprehensive assessment of James’s situation and personal barriers faced.  James has Asperger’s Syndrome that makes social interaction and nonverbal communication challenging, which was also compounded by having ADHD and dyslexia.

James had been made redundant prior to lockdown, and had got decent GCSE grades and qualifications; however he suffered from low confidence. This wasn’t helped by working in past jobs that had not provided a positive experience.

When joining Towards Work, James’s main goal was to increase his confidence and assertiveness, as well as gaining more experience, so he was more employable.

Joe supported James by holding regular one-to-one meetings and encouraging the take-up of courses in trades he had expressed more interest in. As a result, James completed a fork-lift truck course.

Joe was then able to support James by writing him a cover letter to go with his CV and assist him when applying for jobs and giving them out to potential employers. They would both collectively and regularly apply for jobs during meetings.

In the midst of lockdown, during a telephone 1-to-1 meeting, they checked the Indeed account that Joe had set up for James and discovered that Manuka Roofing Ltd had got in contact regarding the next stage of recruitment for an apprenticeship in flat roofing that James had been supported to apply for a month earlier. This was a virtual interview over Zoom. However, James didn’t have a laptop or access to the internet.

In order to support James with this, Joe visited him and brought his laptop and internet connectivity to enable him to complete the interview. In order to satisfy social distancing restrictions, Joe put the laptop on the car and James carried out the interview outside.

As a result of Joe’s proactiveness and ability to go out of his way to enable the interview to take place remotely, the employer later got in contact to offer James the position of apprentice flat roofer, which he started on 29th June 2020!

When reflecting on his role as a work coach, Joe said: “We are privileged to support participants in positive ways, allowing us to become significant others in their lives.  Working with James was made so much easier because of his willingness to succeed.”

“Being a work coach is not just about finding employment for participants, it’s more a commitment to furthering their happiness and well-being.  This young man succeeded because we thought outside the box, we were flexible with our approach and worked together as a team”.

James’s parents commented: “James met Joe at the Job Centre whilst looking for employment. At this time he had no skills, no confidence and had no idea what he wanted to do. Joe put him on the Towards Work programme which completely changed his life. He was put on various training courses which gave him direction. Joe found him a course at Chameleon College in plastering. Joe personally helped his confidence and mentored him though the process of employment. James is a changed person. He has confidence now and a full time job. This is all down to Towards Work and especially Joe Michael.”

If you know of someone who would benefit from support to overcome barriers and to be supported to move closer to education, training or work, please visit the Towards Work website and make a referral:

If you are an organisation and would like to work more closely with the Building Better Opportunities (BBO) programme and would like to discuss how this could happen, please contact your local BBO Stakeholder Manager:

Derbyshire – Rosie Morton

Derby City – Sabina Talib

Nottinghamshire – Maria Ward

Nottingham City – Sarah Bull

BBO is having a significant impact on individual lives, supporting people to increase their confidence, independence and achieve their employment aspirations.

See what our participants have to say in these case studies …

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