Adapting our employment support in response to health crisis

Jeanita supporting people with their employment search from home!

The unique situation we are all in at the moment creates new challenges for those of us supporting people into work. At a time when the government is actively encouraging people to stay at home, those who were already desperate to find meaningful and sustainable employment are particularly vulnerable. The Cardinal Hume Employment Team is actively working to support those clients who are seeking a way forward in the new, rapidly evolving ‘zoom’ job market, with its emphasis on remote working, increased demand for frontline workers and re-definition of employability skills.

Jeanita, one of the Centre’s Employment specialists, explains. “Hospitality workers, who were amongst the first to lose jobs in the onset of lockdown measures, are able to translate valuable customer service skills to telephone-based roles. As companies scramble to provide remote sales and service support to keep their businesses viable, we are seeing an increased market demand for those with ‘soft skills’ such as communication, effective listening and the ability to respond rapidly to queries and issues via phone and email.

Jeanita gives examples of some of the employment clients who have successfully moved into work since the lockdown, “Isabel, a French speaking hospitality specialist, was devastated when her tenuous employment contract with a national coffee house chain came to an abrupt end in early March. But last week, she started work as an ‘Online Logistics Coordinator’ with a well-established international company, specialising in healthcare technology.” And Fatima, a trained osteopath whose employment with a private clinic ended when they took the decision to close in late March, has been accepted to work as an NHS call handler responding to the thousands of calls received by NHS Professionals on the 111 Hotline.

Jeanita says she thought of Fatima as soon as she saw the advert. “Fatima has severe asthma and is in lockdown with her mum – who is also vulnerable due to her age – so I was concerned about how to ensure that she stayed safe while pursuing her healthcare career. But the role was perfect as it is ‘home based’ and means she is able to remain ‘shielded’ while still utilising her valuable specialist knowledge and experience as a healthcare professional.”

While Jeanita supported Fatima to adapt her CV and cover letter for the application process, she also referred Fatima to our partner ‘Smart Works’, an innovative service that provides clothing and interview support for unemployed women. The team at Smart Works were able to offer Fatima not only additional interview coaching over the phone, but also a package of ‘work clothes’ which were sent by post! Although Fatima is home-based, having a work wardrobe was a real boost..

As other organisations adapt their services for a world in lockdown – there are new opportunities emerging for the Centre’s employment clients to upskill and train, adds Jeanita, “One of our clients is taking advantage of free online courses being offered by Harvard University to improve her business and accounting skills, while I’m referring others to our partners at the Portabello Business Centre, who are offering a whole programme of business start-up training virtually. I’m finding that many of our clients who have had ideas about self-employment and setting up their own small businesses are using their time in lockdown to really explore and develop those ideas”, says Jeanita.

Webinars are being run on everything from ‘Digital Marketing’ to ‘Making a Website Work for your Business’ and ‘Blogging, Vlogging and Podcasting’. “For many savvy young people – this training is invaluable in helping to prepare for a new ‘zoom job market’”, explains Jeanita, and adds that she herself has signed up for a couple to ensure that she is better able to support others, in her capacity as an Employment specialist.