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Strong start for project to help long-term unemployed

More than 50 people have already benefited from a project launched four months ago to help the long-term unemployed get back into work or training.

The Building Better Opportunities project, co-funded by the European Social Fund and the Big Lottery Fund, is being delivered by Oxford-based Activate Learning and a host of local partners.

The programme was launched in July with the aim of supporting at least 350 people over three years, yet has already worked with 50 people. Six of the participants have already found work as a result of the support they have received.

Among them is mother of four, Hadija Harerim. Hadija said: “When the adviser first told me about the programme I was really excited and happy. I knew that I needed help but I didn’t know where to start to get a job. I thought that the project could be a good thing for me.”

Hadjia received support from a job coach, who worked with her to develop her CV writing and job search skills. After attending a jobs fair at Blackbird Leys, she was offered an interview with Westminster Home Care, where she is now employed as a care practitioner.

Hadija said: “In my role I will be helping elderly people during home visits, carrying out tasks for them, looking after them and doing some cooking. I am really looking forward to it because I enjoy helping people.  I want to continue working in the future, doing this job to my best and hopefully gaining more qualifications so I can develop a career in healthcare.

“The programme gave me the tools to believe in myself. This is so important. You need to have self-confidence. If you want to do something, go for it, because anything is possible.”

The Building Better Opportunities funding is being used to employ dedicated job coaches and provide a range of support to help people overcome barriers to employment. The programme has a particular focus on those living in the deprived wards and rural communities in and around Oxford city and Banbury.

Participants, who may be referred by the Jobcentre Plus, benefit from one-to-one support and a package of measures which could include help with job search and interview skills, access to volunteering, training and childcare and developing language skills. Those engaging in the programme are expected to progress into education or training or into active job searching.

Andy Marshall, director for the Lifeskills faculty at Activate Learning, said: “We are pleased to have got off to such as strong start with the Building Better Opportunities programme, which is helping to get to the roots of long-term unemployment and provide the support required to help people get ready for work. This not only benefits the individuals and their families, but also the wider economic health of the county. We are looking forward to seeing more people re-enter the jobs market as a result of the programme.”