Launched in March 2021, The Way Forward project is a unique employability and skills coaching programme for anyone within the BCP area, whose financial health and employment status has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In just four months, the project has already achieved 49 referrals, fully engaged 32 people, helped eight people acquire accredited learning, and helped seven people gain paid employment.
In her blog, Project Manager Val Jefferies talks about why the project was set up, why she feels honoured to drive it and her hopes for its continued success.
“To say I’m proud of what The Way Forward is achieving doesn’t really come close.
“This pioneering project was borne out of utter misery - a terrible pandemic the likes of which none of us had seen before.
“The amount of people who have seen their financial security smashed by Covid is frightening.
“Our role in driving the project is to try and combat some of the havoc Covid has wrought on so many people’s lives and livelihoods, by helping them rebuild their confidence, take stock of their skills and work towards new financial stability.
“Within weeks of our work beginning in March 2021, we witnessed people whose confidence had been shattered by Covid, steadily growing in strength and resilience.
“To see some of them go on and secure new jobs within just a few weeks of joining us, not only exceeded all our expectations but validated what we knew all along – that The Way Forward works and has the power to play an important part in the area’s financial recovery.”
Val is no stranger to successful employability projects.
Ten years ago, she was a founding member of BCHA Ignite, a ground breaking programme, which has helped thousands of people build their self esteem, discover new skills and, in many cases, find new and fulfilling careers.
She said: “I love project start up and management and seeing results emerge over time and the way Ignite grew, evolved and the partnerships it made have been frankly staggering.
“The feeling of sitting in on a session with someone who is almost at rock bottom in terms of confidence, talking to them about their passions and feeling them suddenly engage with you is unbeatable.
“Then being there as they progress through the programme, helping them, coaching them and watching them achieve personal goals and victories, is perfect.
“I am also privileged to be able to help my fantastic team grow their own coaching skills and seeing them help their customers conquer obstacles, large or small, is deeply satisfying.”
“Myself and The Way Forward’s project advisors Kate Coughlan and Nadia Silva work closely with local employers and other organisations such as Citizens Advice, BCP Council and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to provide a seamless service to the people who come to us for help and support.
“We help individuals identify transferable skills, as well as accessing training and education to equip them to move into employment.
“We also support individuals to develop healthy financial habits and overcome financial hardship, in what is a very unpredictable time.
“The feedback we have received from customers so far is very encouraging.
“To know that you have helped a person leave a feeling of inadequacy, re-discover their talents and begin to look forward to the future is fantastic and while we don’t do this for praise it certainly makes your heart sing when a person thanks you for helping them get back on track.
“The Way Forward is growing as more and more people hear about it and we are now looking forward to engaging with businesses, so we can connect our talented customers with the employers who want and need them. There are many more exciting times ahead.
“On a professional basis, BCHA has provided me with the foundation for frontline work with clients from all backgrounds and also developed me as a manager.
“On a personal level the satisfaction it gives me is immeasurable. I can’t think of anything I would rather be doing.”