Looking for a new job or seeking work after long-term unemployment can often be daunting, but at the Christians Against Poverty (CAP) Job Club, run by members of LifeSpring Church, their volunteers are on hand to ensure that service users enjoy a more positive experience.
First opened three years ago, the job club provides people with support in writing CV’s, developing IT skills, one-on-one coaching, holding mock interviews to practice their communication skills, conducting job searches, gaining volunteering experience, personal tuition, and sign-posting to other employment related services.
It is a much needed resource in Wolverhampton, where some 9% of the population is currently unemployed (practically double the UK national average), and competition for jobs is great.
The volunteers are welcoming and friendly, and upon walking through the doors of the LifeSpring Centre, you couldn’t imagine meeting a more caring or dedicated team. Everyone is on hand to lend support, and the volunteers take immense satisfaction in the successes of their clients – but also in just being able to lend a listening ear:
“When they get a job, we all celebrate! We get to know the people here personally, and they’re always made to feel welcome. For people who have not worked for a while, who have lost their confidence, or who maybe live alone, we try to make them all feel at home here… that somebody cares for them”
Volunteers Bernie and Marie diligently staff the centre’s café, providing job club members with drinks and cakes, and each service user is greeted like an old friend. When asked why they volunteer their time each week, their answer is simple and heartfelt:
“It’s the joy of seeing people grow in confidence. It’s helping people who may be under a lot of pressure, who may be isolated. Basically… it’s love.”
Also there to provide advice and support is the CAP Debt Centre, who provide evening courses and guidance on how to manage money. As their advisor, Len Kruvzek states, it helps people take control of their money, instead of money controlling them.
The course is currently run three times a year, and interest is high. Clients can also be referred to other services for assistance with dealing with debts, and all are assured that even after the course has ended, they are welcome to come back for further guidance.
The feedback from job club members is universally positive. Each attends the centre for their own personal reasons – some to find employment, some for IT support – whilst some attend each week for the friendships and camaraderie they’ve found there.
Olivia has been attending the job club for four weeks. When asked what she gets out of the centre, she smiles: “They’re doing a very good job here. At home I would have no support. They’re invested in my future, and it’s good to have feedback about where to channel my energies in a realistic way. (*Being unemployed*) It can be a very depressive thing. You feel very low sometimes, in places you don’t want to be in.”
When asked about the future, Olivia feels positive that her experiences at CAP Job Club will prove invaluable to finding a job, and perhaps one day following her dream – of becoming a photographer. In the meantime, Olivia has been inspired to dedicate her own time to helping others, by volunteering at a Silver Surfers project!
Another regular at the Job Club is Bobby, who was advised to attend by the local Job Centre. He too has found a warm welcome at the club, and enjoys the social interactions as much as the guidance and support he receives from volunteers.
“There’s a lot of people to help and give you guidance. They’re good people to talk to, very friendly. I get support with my CV and I can get my ideas down on paper, it really helps with my confidence.”
But of course the Job Club could not provide these invaluable services without its staff of dedicated volunteers. Similarly to the people who use their services, each person has a different reason as to why they feel inspired to volunteer their time.
Belinda has volunteered at the Job Club since it first opened, and she was keen to highlight the aims of the project. Aside from simply providing a safe and nurturing space for those in need, the club’s main aim is to increase the confidence of the attendees, and ultimately, help them secure employment.
Knowing how competitive the job market is, the volunteers work to help their members present themselves to prospective employers in the best possible light, highlighting all of their abilities and skills.
As Belinda explains, “One thing they all go away with is increased confidence, but hopefully… a job. That’s our main aim. But also how to present themselves, to do a good CV and interview. How to put themselves at the top of the list when they’re applying for jobs.”
She recalls the successes of previous members with genuine pride, recalling one very subdued and isolated gentleman who was assisted in gaining qualifications and certificates, who then went on to secure volunteer work and then ultimately, found a job. Or a lady who attended the club, who learnt as she increased her self-confidence that she needed to seize opportunities when they came her way. Her opportunity came quite unexpectedly, when chatting to a stranger at a bus stop who mentioned a job at the school they worked at. She applied, and was successful.
“We gave her the confidence she needed to put herself out there!”
Certainly some of the volunteers feel called to help through their Christian faith, as Sam (who has been volunteering at the centre for a month) expressed, “I wanted to do faith based work, I just wanted to dedicate my time to helping people.”
However, people of other faiths or none, who may be hesitant about attending the job club, should expect nothing but a warm welcome from the staff at the centre.
“We have diversity here,” Sam said, “There’s no church related activities in job club, it’s just the building we’re in. And people stay here because we value diversity and they see that when they come here. It’s not an issue for anyone. People can be open here and there’s no judgement, no reason to feel they can’t be honest. We’re just helping people get where they want to be. I’ve learnt a lot from them myself, I’ve learnt a lot from being here too… I’ve even rewritten my own CV!”
Unlike Sam, Hayley was not motivated to volunteer because of her faith, but instead, it was suggested to her by her own employment advisor as a good way to explore her interests and abilities.
A year after first starting out as a volunteer, Hayley feels the experience has not only been rewarding in allowing her to serve and support others, but also in developing her own skills – and ultimately, in determining what she would like to do as a future career.
“I get a lot out of being here! Meeting people, talking to them… Each person is in a different place in their job search, at a different stage of their journey. We’ve helped quite a few people get jobs this season, and to get volunteering posts through WVSC. We’re really proud of them all for working towards their goals.”
But just like Sam, she also wanted to highlight the openness and inclusive environment that the club fosters. “There’s no mould that people have to fit to come here. We have Jewish people, Muslim people, and people like myself. It’s open to everyone!”
However the club doesn’t just support people in finding work, it also assists those already in employment to learn new skills and gain qualifications to help them to move on to the next stage of their careers.
David volunteers at the centre, but is also a participant in the project. He hopes to be able to ‘get up to the next level’ in his current role in customer service, but also takes great satisfaction in supporting people who attend the club.
“I help set up, talk to the members. If someone’s feeling low I’ll go and talk to them. Nothing good’s going to happen if you’re feeling rubbish! You don’t know where they are in their situation, and we’re here to help them.”
Does he see a change in people over the weeks or months they attend?
“Yeah, we see changes in people, definitely. Their morale improves and it’s friendly here, so it helps people grow, makes them feel part of a team.”
And for those who are not seeking employment, but who are looking for companionship or social support?
“The doors are open, they can come and have a cup of tea, a cake, and a chat. It gets people out of the house sometimes, and they can come somewhere they feel valued.”
Unemployment can often make people feel very isolated, and as Sally (a job club volunteer) knows first-hand, being unemployed can be a very dark time.
“Being unemployed makes you feel judged. Like people look down on you. That doesn’t happen here. We look at the next steps someone needs to take to find work, and we try to break down the barriers to work.”
Sometimes it’s the little things – helping someone to remove employment gaps from their CV, focusing on skills to develop, or even just talking to a one-on-one advisor about their searches.
“I know it can be a frightening time, it can really knock your confidence. People feel vulnerable and low, and we don’t want them to have to go through that alone.”
As well as working closely with the Wolverhampton Voluntary Sector Council in securing volunteering opportunities, the CAP Job Club also enjoys support from employees of the Wolverhampton Credit Union.
Vivienne volunteers regularly at the job club and sees her role there as being mutually beneficial for both the people she supports, and her own personal growth.
“Watching people develop and supporting them, I learn from them. As much as I give, I get back, just from being here. Relationships are being built here. You’re meeting them where they’re at, at whatever pace or speed they need. There’s no pressure here, we come alongside them and get them there in their own time. There’s no time limit on how long we support them for.”
Speaking to the club members and its volunteer staff, it’s clear that the CAP Job Club exceeds the goals it set out to meet three years ago, when Kevin Griffiths first developed the project.
After being inspired to start up the job club from a church service he attended about similar projects, Kevin saw the club as a much needed resource in the city, providing tangible, practical support to those in need.
The job club has undoubtedly achieved this – by helping people reach their employment goals, embrace their self-confidence, explore their interests, and develop both personally and professionally. It allows its members to select the type of support they need, to work at their own pace, and to explore their options in a friendly and nurturing environment.
But it’s clear that the club also provides companionship and moral support; A safe haven within the city where people can go to talk, to simply be, and ultimately, to find friendship.
“Being here, people think ‘I can achieve! There’s hope!’ And it’s a definite hope, it’s real, because they can see people succeeding. It allows people to have hopes and dreams and aspirations. It’s about life, really. It’s not just a job club!”
With enormous thanks to the volunteers and members of the CAP Job Club for their very warm welcome, and for sharing their experiences.
The club runs every Thursday between 9am and 12pm at LifeSpring Centre, 34 Clifton Street,
Wolverhampton, WV3 0QT.
For further details, please contact Kevin Griffiths at email@example.com
Or visit their website at: http://www.lifespring.uk.com/ministries/cap-job-club/