From education to employment

WELL Training help Black Country long term unemployed towards work

Julie Taylor and Harjinder S Jheet

More than 350 people at risk of long-term unemployment across the Black Country have been helped towards work through two employability schemes by leading skills provider @WellAssociates.

Wolverhampton-based WELL have delivered support for people in need of practical help to secure employment and education opportunities, through their successful delivery of the Building Better Opportunities and Black Country Futures sessions.

Playing their part in addressing the region’s skills shortage, WELL have helped diverse community members achieve short term and longer-term goals of preparing for employment, including building their self-confidence and in many cases overcoming mental health issues or other challenges.

Some have achieved accredited qualifications, while all have benefitted from mentoring and support in areas such as CV building, job searches, applications, progressions into training or education and helping people successfully gain employment.

Delivered originally at their centre in Queen Street, the COVID-19 pandemic meant WELL used video technology to deliver online learning, introducing participants to Zoom tools including chat, whiteboard and break-out rooms in preparation for undergoing job interviews online.

WELL’s delivery of Black Country Futures (BCF) support has benefitted 44 people as part of an outreach project across the Black Country boroughs, backed by the National Lottery Community Fund to help those facing employability barriers. Of the 44, four entered employment, five have gone on to training or education and 34 have done the level one customer service qualification.

Managed by Steps To Work, the project was set up to “raise aspirations, develop personal and employability skills, and improve the economic stability of participants, enabling them to achieve their true potential”.

The WELL team, including project coordinator Julie Taylor and outreach manager Harjinder S Jheet, have supported people from across Walsall, Wolverhampton, Dudley and Sandwell into further education and employment by developing their skills and confidence. Among those to be given specialist support are people aged over 50, refugees, participants with mental and physical health issues, as well as ex-offenders, lone parents and employees at risk of redundancy.

Working alongside 13 partner organisations, WELL has offered programmes to provide individuals with the confidence training and practical experience to lead them to employment. All participants have had the opportunity to undertake a course or gain a qualification in customer service, as well as accessing support, mentoring, skills and training to gain employment.

Julie Taylor said the BCF sessions had helped a range of people overcome barriers to employment. She said: “Some of the people we have supported have been carers for others, are unable to drive or are financially destitute so it has been rewarding to support them on their way to finding work.

“There is no fixed time limit for each person which is beneficial when many need extra appointments to move them to a stage where they have the confidence to get work. The pandemic has meant we moved to online sessions but our focus on ensuring the best outcomes for each person has remained, making it a rewarding project for WELL to deliver.”

Among those to benefit was Saima Parveen, who gained a qualification in customer service to rebuild her confidence and create a better future for her daughter. As lockdown left her isolated, completing the WELL course online and interacting with fellow participants had a positive effect. Saima said: “I came out feeling more confident within myself. This firm is very helpful and kind.”

Meanwhile, WELL have delivered support for more than 300 people through the Building Better Opportunities (BBO) programme, which ran until last August. Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund with matching funds from the European Social Fund, it supported people aged 16 and over who were identified as in the 20 per cent most deprived section of society.

Led by Heart of England Community Foundation, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and the European Social Fund, it brought together partners across the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) region to deliver employability skills. Through WELL’s work, 160 participants gained a level one qualification, which for many was a first accredited qualification. Thirty participants moved into employment, whilst 60 went onto further training or education. The support included CV development and building, job searches and help with applications.

Both Julie and Harjinder from the WELL team know the benefit of the BBO courses, having joined WELL on the back of participating in the programme. After completing their own courses, they have gone on to lead others. Harjinder said: “The BBO course has made a massive impact. For many it was the chance to progress which they had perhaps given up on receiving after challenges in lives.

“For one female participant in her early 20s it was a chance to look again at entering further education after her learning stopped when she had twins in her teens. Her ambition was to be a paramedic and we helped her enrol for college so she could realise her dream.”

Another beneficiary was Victor, who having undergone a crisis of confidence after his employment ended was able to return to the same employer in a new role following the boost of having achieved his qualification. “With the confidence I gained I went back to my old employer and asked what I could do,” he said. “They rehired me as a warehouse manager. I’m much happier now.”

Heart of England Community Foundation CEO Tina Costello welcomed the impact made by WELL. She said: “The BBO Community Matters project has seen many lives improved throughout the Black Country. We’re delighted by WELL’s achievements and I wish the best to those who have benefitted from their BBO course.”

WELL Director Jackie Wyke said the successes with the BBO and BCF programmes showed the strength of the company’s delivery capability. Jackie said: “WELL has a proud heritage of changing the lives of those who often need practical advice and experience to make a step forward.

“We were pleased to work in partnership on both BBO and BCF, bringing our strengths in digital training and skills knowhow to make a positive impact for a diverse group of people at a time when COVID-19 has brought further challenges in the way of them finding work or receiving education.”

With its HQ in Wolverhampton, WELL was launched in 2010 to initially provide training services for businesses around the West Midlands. Since then, it has gone on to serve companies across the UK and internationally with clients ranging from huge international brands through to large public sector organisations such as the NHS.  

Drawing upon WELL’s extensive experience of successfully providing training online, it also delivers apprenticeship programmes for leading national brands. Since its launch, WELL has trained more than 3000 people, ranging from front line manager to “C suite” senior leaders. It has supported learners in achieving 600 leadership qualifications, with 95% of learning sessions rated outstanding by participants. 

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