Accelerate and the forgotten jobseekers of COVID-19
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.
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the need for support and help amongst the unemployed of Coventry and Warwickshire has grown and changed. Coventry and Warwickshire CDA's Opportunity Connector Kate Henderson outlines their evolving mission to support 'the forgotten jobseekers of COVID-19' - and how you can help.
Before the pandemic, Accelerate was working face to face mainly with job seekers who were looking to move back into employment, however in the last 12 months we have seen a difference in the needs of our participants.
Our participants are coming to us with more mental health problems, more stress, worry and fear for the future. We are providing confidence and motivational support as well as encouraging resilience in these unusual times.
Historically, Accelerate has focused on the ‘personal touch’ by meeting most of our participants face to face and building a connection with them which has always been really successful. We have had to readdress how to keep that connection using telephone contact and Zoom calls.
Many people are considering their future and are looking for opportunities to learn new skills. Accelerate has updated its offer and added new online courses and activities. We have a suite of iHASCO courses that have certificates valid for three years which we can support participants with e.g. COSHH, Food Safety & Hygiene, Manual Handling and have sourced various online certificated ‘taster’ courses that our participants can use to decide if they would like to pursue a career in more areas e.g. Customer Service, Pet grooming, Photography, Digital Skills, Hairdressing and Fitness Instructor training.
In addition, we are training people to use the Internet, send emails, apply for jobs and research other support for themselves.
For more information on what we offer, please go to our website www.accelerate.org.uk
This brings us to the biggest obstacle we have encountered so far - lack of technology for our participants.
We can offer as many courses and as much support as required (and we do!) but without the means to access all this, our participants are at a serious disadvantage. Many people have either no laptop, computer or tablet, or have one they have to share with family and don’t get to use it much if at all. Libraries and Job Centres have traditionally been the places to access free computer usage but
COVID-19 means they are offering limited services leaving thousands of people with absolutely no way of getting online.
We can still offer support by phone but without the internet access our participants need, they can’t complete courses that would help them find work, apply for jobs online, practice remote interviews, interact with our mental health support in group settings or access online coffee mornings, all of which help to combat loneliness – the list is endless. Lack of access to technology is effectively excluding the poorest and neediest of all.
To help combat this technology gap, Coventry and Warwickshire CDA are starting to run 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
No longer are we in a time when you could knock on the door of a factory and ask for work, circle the job ads in the local paper, or send a handwritten CV in the post. In the modern digital age with such a huge focus on remote access and inclusion for all, don’t we all have some responsibility to make sure the people that need us the most don’t become the forgotten jobseekers of COVID-19?
* Accelerate offers free employment support and is a Building Better Opportunities project funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund, managed by Coventry and Warwickshire CDA and delivered in conjunction with a partnership of local organisations. For more information, please visit www.accelerate.org.uk/