Confidence building in Oldbury

Inspiring students to get job ready

The following piece is adapted from an account by Aaron Greaves, Community Matters

Andy steps up from the table and starts dishing out sheets of paper: ‘I just thought these might help!’

But Andy isn’t running the session. He’s a learner and that’s the strength of this group. Through the Welcome Trust, the Midlands Adult Union School Fund, and previously Community Matters, the WEA is able to run the Oldbury project in the West Midlands. The project helps people to build confidence and achieve their individual future goals. This may be into further training, volunteering and employment.

Gill Walker, WEA Project Co-ordinator runs the programme:

‘There are many reasons why people can find it very challenging to get a job, including physical and mental health issues. People don’t always receive the support that they need.

‘The distance some participants have traveled just to get through that door is great, and I’m not talking in a geographical sense, they’ve all got their own challenges to overcome but this group has developed a great deal of strength in the way they all support each other.’

Participants do what you’d expect in terms of taking steps towards employment and future training, for example looking at job and volunteering adverts, working on CVs, exploring their confidence issues and practicing interview techniques. What this group does best, however, is allowing its members to share their experiences, questions, and tips, providing an exceptional support network. There is a strong partnership between the group, the tutor and the project co-ordinator. Everyone inputs into the learning environment in terms of ideas and resources. Members of the group regularly give presentations to the rest of the group on a range of topics. Andy himself gave a presentation to the Regional General Meeting.

On reflecting back Andy said:‘I started coming in January and I’ve been coming ever since. When I first came I was nervous and everything but as soon we broke the ice, we all got on like a house on fire!’

After having to leave his job in 2003 to look after his mother and father, it’s been difficult for Andy to get back into employment, it’s something he has been working hard to combat:

‘I do suffer from confidence issues when meeting new people and especially looking for a job. But it’s great to come here, make friends and build that confidence. 

‘The project has helped me look at things differently, not only the way I go about interviews but also how I can support and help people with problems. The setup is great, we can have a general chat about the issues we have which is really helpful.’

Getting back into employment may not be too far away for Andy, who has taken up a number of volunteer positions to help him get back into a routine. Working on the Action for Children funded Coffee Cart in the local library, providing admin support in the Volunteer Bureau and helping to promote the Action for Children Charity.

The group as a whole are already proud owners of two Social Impact Awards from the Volunteer Bureau and the WEA. Two members have also become WEA Volunteers. 18 months on from the start, the group continues to go from strength to strength. It is now at a point where it is reaching out to other groups in the WEA and community to build new partnerships, and hopefully to inspire others to have a go and get involved.