Three of the women have already been offered employment from their work experience placements.
The Women’s Work Lab is a community interest company which supports women in the south west back into work after extended career breaks and to kickstart careers.
The core 12-week programme is open to women who are out of work and in receipt of Universal Credit. It combines face to face expert training with a formal work placement at a respected local employer. The women then receive six months’ support from a mentor as well as ongoing support from the Women’s Work Lab. All training and work placements take place in term-time and only during school hours.
The graduation ceremony of the first cohort of the programme in North Somerset took place at The Campus in Weston-super-Mare on Friday 17 June.
Training for the second cohort will start on 29 September at Clevedon Town Council’s offices at 44 Old Street in Clevedon. Sessions will take place on Thursday and Friday mornings from 10am to 1pm.
The Women’s Work Lab would also like to hear from North Somerset businesses interested in hosting a mum on placement. This would involve providing experience of an entry-level role for 15 hours a week, during school hours, for four weeks in November. Typically, the shift pattern would be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday between 9.30am and 2.30pm. Often employers offer rotating placements so mums can find out about different career opportunities within their organisation.
The Women’s Work Lab is the first training programme of its kind in the UK. It helps to build women’s confidence through teaching new skills and providing a supportive peer group.
Mum of three Louise Chubb, 28, from Weston-super Mare has been offered a role in IT at Tutorum, a global consultancy and training provider, after a successful work placement at the organisation.
Of the programme Louise says; “I loved being part of a group of women supporting each other. For the first time in years I felt a space had been created for me to really find out who I was as a person and what my strengths and ambitions were. I am so excited about starting my new role and getting back into the working world.”
“The Women’s Work Lab has had a huge impact on my mental health and the way I view myself. It has been invaluable and truly the best thing I have ever done for myself.”
Another participant Stephanie Rajpura, 38, from Weston-super-Mare has landed a role as a business administrator at Volunteer Action North Somerset.
She says; “The whole programme was such an empowering experience and was exactly what I needed to help my confidence. The whole programme was so thoughtful and I’ve gained a deeper understanding of myself. The women I have met along the way have been inspirational.”
Councillor Catherine Gibbons, North Somerset Council’s executive member responsible for lifelong learning, said: “From the moment I become aware of the Women's Work Lab project I was determined that we should make the opportunities it offers available for the women of North Somerset and I want to thank everyone who made this possible – it’s fantastic that our first women have been able to put in work and have now graduated. What a success!
“This is a truly worthwhile initiative helping break down barriers women may be experiencing in returning to the workplace after having children. I encourage eligible women to apply to the next cohort in Clevedon. I also hope to see more businesses registering to provide work experience opportunities.”
Following the success of the programme in Bristol and Bath, the scheme is supported by North Somerset Council thanks to Flexible Support Funding through the Department of Work and Pensions.