Karen upskills and finds whole new direction thanks to Accelerate
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the need for support amongst the unemployed of Coventry and Warwickshire has grown and changed. Coventry and Warwickshire CDA's Opportunity Connector Kate Henderson shares the uplifting story of how Karen Campbell engaged with the Accelerate programme to overcome technology issues and find a new role.
“I was so thankful when I found Accelerate – the programme helped boost my confidence when I was at my lowest."
Mother-of-two Karen Campbell has spent the majority of her career working in the hospitality sector, eventually progressing to management.
When the wedding and events venue at which Karen worked was forced to close, due to the pandemic, in March 2020, the company had to let her go. Suddenly, she faced unemployment and the prospect of not being able to pay her mortgage and losing her home.
After submitting several unsuccessful job applications and receiving financial support from family members, Karen was referred to Accelerate to help build her confidence, upskill and receive support finding employment.
Karen was supported by Accelerate Journey Guide Tim Bannister. He offered guidance on potentially changing her career path as well as helping to update her CV, create cover letters and fill in applications.
She was also referred to several Accelerate partner organisations and took part in a number of free online courses, achieving Level 2 qualifications in food hygiene, health and safety and IT with the help of a loaned laptop.
Karen has now gained a position in retail and her new skills and qualifications mean she is not only able to work as a sales assistant but also provide support in the store’s bakery and café.
She said: “I’ve never been out of work before, so when the lockdown came along and I lost my job it knocked me off my feet.
“I was so worried about not being able to pay my mortgage and losing my home. It’s just me and my daughter living there and she’s at university so I really didn’t want to worry her.
“I was so thankful when I found Accelerate – the programme helped boost my confidence when I was at my lowest.
“When you’ve been employed for so long you can find applying for new jobs out of your comfort zone, but my journey guide Tim provided me with a huge amount of support. It was so nice to have someone to talk to about my situation who could provide me with advice and guidance. I hadn’t really thought about retail until Tim showed me that I had a range of transferrable skills.
“He also supported me to find the right job for my circumstances. I live in a small village with a very limited bus service and I had to stop taking driving lessons when I lost my job, but he helped me find a retail position which I could get to.
“I’m so lucky that I had both my family and Tim providing me with so much support. Having a network of people really goes a long way.
“I’d urge anyone who is unemployed to contact Accelerate. A lot of people don’t look for help because of their pride, but everyone needs to put that aside because nobody is going to give you a job unless you work for it. I’m 54 and demonstrating that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”
Tim added: “Karen knew it would be difficult to go back into hospitality under the current circumstances, but was willing to branch out and take advantage of any upskilling opportunities.
“The courses really helped secure her new position as they provided added value to the employer, enabling Karen to fulfil the role of sales assistant but also support in other areas of the business.
“The Accelerate project was originally designed to support those furthest from employment, but Covid has completely changed this. We have been inundated with people in a similar position to Karen, especially people struggling with access to technology now they are unable to visit libraries and job centres.
“We are able to provide people with a service that is tailored to their specific needs and support them in working towards their goals.”
To help combat this technology gap, Coventry and Warwickshire CDA are running a recycled computer project, where the computers donated will be refurbished and given to those from communities encountering health issues, deprivation, loneliness or who are struggling to access the job market.
If you have a laptop or tablet that you could donate to be recycled for this project, please contact Mandy Bygrave on email@example.com
* The Accelerate project, funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund, supported by Warwickshire County Council, is a partnership of local organisations run by Coventry and Warwickshire CDA who are a not-for-profit organisation providing a range of enterprise, employability and financial inclusion services. For more information, please visit www.accelerate.org.uk/