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A lot of attention in the last few years has focused on initiatives to help parents who have taken time out to look after children get back to work.
Most have been undertaken by financial services firms keen to attract women back into the profession.
But other organisations are also interested in helping women back to work. Oxfam has recently launched a scheme aimed at marginalised women who face barriers to finding employment.
The Future Skills programme has been piloted twice in Manchester, with intakes of about 20 women in January and November 2016. The project offers support, skills and career development to women who have been referred by groups such as women’s refuges, food banks, community groups and refugee organisations. They are given a six-month placement in one of Oxfam’s high street shops, working a minimum of eight hours a week.
The women get training in retail and financial management as well as customer service and have the opportunity to take part in skills workshops. They are also given a mentor. “The aim is to build their skills, confidence and self esteem,” says Jo Thackwray, Northern Volunteer Resource Manager at Oxfam GB-Trading. “When you are facing challenges in life your confidence can be at rock bottom. The scheme shows that they are valued and have a place in the community. That can be more important than getting a job.”
The women are also given a certificate to show what they have achieved. The placement is voluntary, but free childcare is provided and travel expenses and lunch are paid for.
As a result of the success Manchester pilot funding has been obtained to extend the project to Scotland and London. Dates are currently being finalised. Even though the pilot is still going it has already shown women taking part have a significant increase in their skills and confidence levels, and some of the women have gone on to get paid employment.