Kicking off the new year Suited for Success hosted the first 'Fresh Start' employment day on Thursday 18th January supporting ex-offenders into successful employment. With convictions ranging from a 15 year prison sentence for armed robbery to a 2 year burglary sentence, the 30 men and women who attended had one aspiration - to make a fresh start and get into employment.
Suited for Success partnered with the Birmingham Job Centres led by the Selly Oak Job Centre team to pilot the one-stop-shop employment day. The day also brought together Birmingham agencies New Leaf Initiative CIC who support the resettlement and rehabilitation of ex-offenders through advice and guidance with finding employment and employment agency Chance 2013 who work exclusively with ex-offenders wanting to re-enter the job market.
Work skills with Google Digital Garage
The Google Digital Garage outreach team were also on hand to give one-to-one advice on searching for jobs online, CVs and covering letters, also information on free courses available at their shop on Birmingham New Street including IT skills, presentation skills, starting a businesses and more…
Jason talked about not wanting to go into a dead end job and wants to set up his own business in the creative arts: "I really want to build a career for myself now and set up my own business. It's been fantastic talking to the Google Digital Garage guys, they've given me loads of advice and booked me on a free course on starting my own business."
A free interview suit
After getting help and advice regarding their employment each person was dressed and styled by our Suited for Success team and provided with a FREE smart interview suit.
Our centre buzzed with excitement and hopeful conversations of future employment and smiles after seeing themselves transformed in their interview outfits. Imran stood in his changing room staring at himself in the mirror in disbelief: "Wow, I can't believe how I look, I've never looked like this in a suit, it's like this suit was made for me. wow, wow, wow, thank you so much, this is so amazing!!!".
I just need a chance
Heartfelt stories and experiences were shared throughout the day of people's struggles to get into work and not wanting to go back to prison or a life of crime and the frustration of being up against the barriers of employers not wanting to employ them because of having a criminal record. Many expressed their need for support to make a fresh start and not wanting their criminal history to stop them from moving forward in their lives.
Some had come from professional backgrounds and others had a long list of qualifications and work experience.
Every person echoed Richard's wish: “ I just need a chance and not to be judged by my past”.
Being judged by their past was the fear and reality expressed by every person in the room all really wanting the opportunity to put their past behind them, get a foot in the door and show employers what they can do. Scott had only been out of prison a few days and talked about struggling to adjust to life on the outside: "I had a 12 year sentence a few years ago and I've just come out after serving another 2 years. I know it's better not to be in prison and I don't want to go back inside but it's just so hard on the outside and I'm really struggling. I just need to find a job, earn myself some money and feel settled."
A great day
Feedback from the day was overwhelmingly positive all saying how much they enjoyed attending the event and really grateful for the help, one-to-one support in a relaxed environment also relieving their free interview suit:
"I've had a great experience today, I haven't felt judged like I have in most places. I really appreciated the one-to-one help and support, I felt listened to." said one attendee.
Another said: "I nearly didn't come today. I've been to other jobs fairs and they've been a waste of time. in contrast this event had the personal touch and it felt as if you guys actually want to help . This event was amazing!"
More Than Just a Suit
To further our mission to support unemployed men and women into employment, Suited for Success is developing three new strands to our service which was launched in autumn 2017 including: Interview coaching and mock interview practice, an aftercare programme and half day workshops. We are hoping to run several other Fresh Start events throughout the year. Read more about More Than Just a Suit
See a gallery of pictures from the day below... (click on any picture to open the gallery)