At Halifax Opportunities Trust we deliver many programmes throughout our community that support unemployed people. As one such programme nears the end of its two year funding, we take a look back at the people and projects who have made the placement programme such a success.
The programme was designed to help long term unemployed people gain valuable work experience to plug the gap in their CV, increase their confidence levels and obtain a valuable employer reference. Customers were matched to their choice of career path and were placed within charitable organisations. In addition to their placement, they were given support with their job search by one of our experienced Employment Advisors.
Over the two years of the programme more than 600 customers were referred and 400 were placed through Halifax Opportunities Trust at charitable organisations around Calderdale, over 100 customers were placed with Steve McGowan who utilised their skills on his site maintenance teams for Hanson Lane Enterprise Centre and Elsie Whiteley Innovation Centre.
Just one of the many site improvements carried out at Hanson Lane by placement volunteers.
Due to the numbers taking part Steve also looked outside the charity to other local non-profit organisations around Calderdale and set teams on at places such as Mount Zion Methodist Chapel, Dixie Woods Cycle Track in Sowerby Bridge and Macintosh Alms Houses. Throughout the programme volunteers have taken part in a variety of projects such as clearance and maintenance at the historic Lister Lane cemetery in Halifax, painting and decorating at St George’s House in Lee Mount and the renovation of 28 Victorian cast iron park benches at People’s Park in Halifax as well as work to tidy and clear areas affected by the devastating Boxing Day floods in 2015. In addition the team of volunteers learnt valuable skills upcycling items for local charity shops.
Flood damage to Dixie Woods Cycle Track being cleared by volunteers.
Victorian park benches renovated by volunteers for People’s Park
The project was co-ordinated by Steve McGowan under Halifax Opportunities Trust’s employment services team and Steve was a key driver in engaging and inspiring those taking part. “I let the guys decide what they wanted to get involved with – set them up and let them get on with it.” He said. “There’s no point 20 guys stood round watching me make a bench. No one’s learning anything then. I’d give them ideas of projects to work on, help them get set up then watch them go for it.” Many of those taking part in the programme had been unemployed for a long time and their confidence was low making it difficult to establish structure and routine but Steve’s perseverance and belief in those taking part meant that many customers felt empowered for the first time in a very long time. “When we were working on a project I’d be there, right next to the guys, doing the same jobs as them and working with them as part of team. That’s how you build respect – I’m not just going to stand there directing them and acting like a boss, I’m one of them. That’s how I want them to see me.”
One of the final projects the programme worked on was for the central mosque in Halifax. The volunteer team built a set of outdoor benches for the mosque and worked on a communal garden area outside the mosque to create a lawn and flower beds.
Landscaping carried out by volunteers at the central mosque in Halifax
Keith is one of the last of the cohort to come through the CWP programme. After gaining his NVQ in Joinery, Keith struggled on the low wages that many apprenticeships offer and decided to take more lucrative work in factories. When the shift work in factories dried up, Keith found himself unemployed. He had been unemployed for 5 years before joining the CWP programme with HOT in April 2016.
During his time with HOT, and under the stewardship of Steve McGowan, Keith took part in various activities such as site maintenance, gardening, clearing, jet washing and tidying – slowly building his confidence and skills.
He also had the opportunity to brush-up his joinery skills upcycling furniture by sanding and preparing wood then moving on to painting and finishing items.
“I absolutely love coming here.” said Keith, “It’s given me skills and confidence I never had before and let me try out loads of different jobs. I’d never done anything like this before officially, just helped out friends and family, but this feels different. I feel more motivated.”
When asked what his plans were after the programme finishes later this month, Keith replied. “I’m going to keep on coming. I want to stay on as a volunteer until I find work.”
For more information about our employment services contact Lisa Connelly on 01422 347392 or email [email protected]