On the first course we had 8 participants who were from a wide range of employment backgrounds such as construction, catering, the film industry, logistics (warehouse and distribution), and administration. We also had a mix of occupational levels up to management level, and people from both an employed and a self- employed background. The members of the group had a range of barriers, from physical and mental health issues, being out of the workplace for a long time, and low levels of confidence. The members expressed how the diversity of the group made it more interesting, having a wide range of experiences to draw and reflect on.
Our training had 2 main themes: knowing your competencies and showcasing your competencies with a view to obtaining paid or voluntary work.
We started the first day by asking everyone to introduce themselves, then explained the aims and main elements of the course i.e. training, one to one support and voluntary work. Alison introduced Community Action Dacorum and the many services it offers in the community.
On the first morning we encouraged them to define the kind of work they wanted at this stage of their lives. We then introduced the concept of competencies, and through a series of exercises, encouraged them to reflect on what they considered to be the main competencies they would be able to offer an employer. Many of them were surprised and pleased at just how many competencies they had. In this section we also discussed some of the pros and cons of trying to get a job age fifty plus. We presented some research to show that many of employers’ negative perceptions of older worker are in fact false, which I think gave more confidence to the group.
In the afternoon we focused on how to present these competencies to best effect in the application process, such as on a CV and on an application form. We also talked about the benefits of keeping up to date with social media as a means of presenting yourself and using as a job search tool. We also introduced the e-portfolio.
On the second training day, a week later, all the participants returned except one who had already managed to get herself a job. She wrote a nice email to Alison and myself saying how much the course had helped her.
In the second morning we focused on completing the e-portfolio, having explained the benefits and answered queries on issues such a security and accessibility. We had 2 participants for each laptop computer. As there were very different levels of IT skills in the group, we paired the more IT competent members with the less competent so that the less able members could get some ‘hands on’ help. This worked very well and they also had help from CAD helpers and from Pauline and Margarida, from France and Portugal, here for the Senior Plus Staff Exchange.
We had a working lunch and a talk from our local Volunteer Centre Manager, Richard, of some of the benefits and opportunities in local volunteering. Alison also explained about the opportunity to volunteer abroad organised by one of our European partners.
After lunch we did the Web of connections exercise. This went really well and enabled us to get to know each other better. We also introduced different methods of job searching with a particular emphasis on networking. We also focused on showcasing competencies at an interview i.e. being able to talk confidently about what you can offer an employer. The participants enjoyed doing a mock interview with one another and giving constructive feedback.
At the end of the course we received very good feedback. As well as learning more about themselves and how to present themselves to the job market, the participants expressed that they had also welcomed the opportunity to meet and network with others the same age and in the same situation as them, as job searching can be a lonely business. The group got on well together and appreciated the support they got from the trainers and from each other. Overall, they felt that it had given them more confidence, and the opportunity to network and share information with others.
Community Action Dacorum, Trainer
Hemel Hempstead (UK), 26th of January 2017