Human beings flourish best when they have a purpose, and for most of us this includes meaningful and properly rewarded work. However, many people across the diocese of Westminster struggle to find dignified work – that fits their skills, interests and values and pays a living wage.
We know that people who are experiencing homelessness are likely to be unemployed and struggle to find work. People in migrant communities might find it difficult to find the type of employment they are qualified for, due to lack of English language skills or of understanding of the UK jobs market. Others may lack experience or confidence, or never had careers advice and need a little help with CVs and application forms.
Five members of the Congolese chaplaincy community in East London recently received support in employability skills thanks to a partnership between Caritas Westminster and Christians Against Poverty. They formed a Job Club which met every Wednesday evening for eight weeks over the summer, in the hall they use at the parish of St Mary and St Michael, near Commercial Road. In the sessions expert volunteers coached them in CV writing, interview skills and many other techniques from searching for jobs to preparing for work. The attendees could also support each other with advice and ideas.
One woman, who we’ll call H, is fairly typical. H was a trained nurse in her country of origin, but her level of English is not yet good enough for her to take nursing exams in the UK. The Job Club has encouraged her to find voluntary work, perhaps at a local hospital, to build up her CV as well as her confidence, until she can gain necessary papers to join the NHS workforce.
This job club came about thanks to the opportunity taken by our Development Worker for East London, Minet Masho, who met the Congolese Chaplain at an event to launch a knife amnesty bin in the parish. Fr Julien was keen to work with Caritas Westminster to support his community, and they soon realised that employment was a key issue for members of the chaplaincy.
Caritas Westminster hopes to be able to support more communities with employment skills training. Often this will be as an extension to an outreach project already being run, such as a food bank, a homeless day centre or a support group. We are encouraging volunteers involved in these kinds of activities, and who want to see those they serve take steps towards resilience and away from dependence on hand-outs, to consider setting up a local job club and/or join our Stepping Stones Programme in November.
Stepping Stones is a train-the-trainers programme, aimed at giving volunteers in social outreach projects the skills they need to support individuals who struggle to find employment or who are stuck in low-paid unrewarding jobs.
You will need to commit to two days of training, run by the Upper Room, on Tuesdays 7th and 28th November. This will give you the skills you need to support people in your communities to transform their lives and give them purpose. Imagine if the numbers attending your food bank were to start going down, because people have found dignified work that fits their skills interests and values and are becoming financially resilient – and you’ve had a small part in that by being able to give them tips on job hunting or boost their confidence through a mock-interview.
Stepping Stones is part of our Road to Resilience programme