"there is no progress without change.”
A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) campaign is showcasing how JobHelp, a UK government-led website, is helping jobseekers find work.
With the pandemic having a major impact on jobs, businesses and many different industries, finding jobs, especially for those from Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds can be a major challenge.
This is where JobHelp along with tailored support from DWP Work Coaches can be extremely valuable to help you find either a new career, a different job or get access to training and qualifications.
The JobHelp website offers career advice, support for benefits, access to training and job opportunities. It features articles to help you learn more about different careers and support you with finding work.
DWP Work Coaches play a pivotal role and are centric to providing tips and advice to help jobseekers.
They are qualified to assist you target jobs of interest, look at alternative options and gain new skills and training.
We present the experiences of two prominent DWP Work Coaches, Akers Fazal and Fozia Farooqi, who share their tips and advice on looking for work, and the story of Tamanna Begum, who successfully secured a new job helped by a work coach.
Work Coach: Akers Afzal
Akers Afzal has been a Work Coach at his local Jobcentre Plus since 2018.
But recently, he has been helping 18 to 24-year-old’s access the government’s Kickstart Scheme*, which provides funding to employers to create high-quality six-month job placements for young people claiming Universal Credit.
Kickstart was launched in 2020 and it helps young jobseekers develop new skills and move into sustained employment after they have completed funding job placements.
But as Akers explains, the route to employment can be difficult.
He says: “I often meet young jobseekers that are plagued with self-doubt due to a lack of confidence, experience or guidance.
“Many of them are unsure of their aspirations or future plans and confused about what steps they need to take to achieve them.”
Akers relates to it as he is also finalising his plans for the future.
He continues: “Although I have an idea of where I want to be now, this may change in the next five to 10 years.
“But there is no progress without change.”
Because of his own experiences, Akers knows how daunting change can be, especially for some of his more vulnerable customers, such as asylum seekers and those with health conditions.
He says: “It’s about being human. We all face different obstacles, and approach them in different ways.”
Akers has strong interpersonal and persuasion skills thanks to his sales background. He uses those skills to build relationships and motivate those he is trying to help.
He explains: “Sometimes it just takes a bit of convincing.
“When you’ve been out of work for a while, it can be particularly demotivating.
“My job is to help job seekers be confident in their job search and overcome any barriers they might face.”
He does this through empathy, coaching and positive reinforcement.
Akers also takes into account cultural awareness when he interacts with someone from a diverse background.
“I am aware of certain cultural barriers some jobseekers may face and do what I can to help them overcome these by taking a more tailored approach.
Therefore, Akers offers effective solutions like referring jobseekers to local and regional providers that can help with learning, upskilling and gaining qualifications.
He adds: “We can refer you to local providers such as the National Careers Service, Ixion and Pathways*, which both help young people smarten up their CVs with the skills and experience employers are looking for.”
Work Coach: Fozia Farooqi
Fozia Farooqi is a Jobcentre Plus Work Coach who works with jobseekers aged 25 and over with complex circumstances.
Since October 2020, Fozia has been helping vulnerable women get back into work.
Being bilingual has benefitted Fozia in her job as many jobseekers she works with often struggle to speak English.
Speaking to them in their mother tongue provides them with a sense of comfort.
She says: “I speak fluent Urdu, and this definitely helps. “Speaking to people in their own language, particularly when they’re vulnerable, makes them feel more comfortable.”
This shared culture has helped Fozia to help a better relationship with those she works with.
Fozia reveals that her customers often express how happy they are to have her as their Work Coach.
She explains that her customers trust her to help them when it comes to certain tasks, such as filling in application forms.
Some of the reasons why some people may struggle to get back into work more than others is due to care responsibilities or looking after large families.
Other obstacles include long gaps of unemployment, a lack of digital skills, disabilities, health issues and not having access to a PC.
While Fozia understands this, her sense of cultural understanding means she is suited to offer helpful solutions.
“I tailor my support depending on each customer.”
“As a Work Coach, it’s important for me to align my personal approach to how it suits my customers. I speak to people at least every 2-3 weeks to see how they’re getting on so I can make sure they get the right support depending on their situation.”
For example, there are language courses available as well as IT programmes to help people gain additional skills and qualifications.
One of these is the Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS)*, an employment support programme for people who have been out of work and claiming Universal Credit or New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance for at least 13 weeks.
This includes specialist advice on how jobseekers can move into growing sectors, CV building tips and interview coaching.
For customers with disabilities and health issues, Fozia recommends the Work and Health Programme*.
It provides personalised support to help people manage their challenges to reduce the impact on their ability to look for work.
Fozia adds: “There are many resources available, and my job is to find the right support for each person’s needs.
“I also recommend the National Careers Service*, which can help people with their career, learning and training choices.”
Jobseeker: Tamanna Begum
On the other side are the jobseekers and many have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lots of people lost their jobs despite the government introducing furlough and other employment schemes.
Twenty-year-old Tamanna Begum from Birmingham lost her job in March 2020.
Tamanna began to felt disheartened after being unemployed for almost a year.
She admits: “It can be the worst feeling in the world.
“You spend so much time on your application and think it’s going well – but then you don’t hear anything back.”
Things began to change when Tamanna met Youth Employability Coach Raj who has worked in the DWP for over 30 years.
Raj says: “My job is extremely rewarding.
“I love being able to make a positive change by helping people move forward in their lives.”
Raj first helped Tamanna to identify the strengths and weaknesses in her CV, using the JobHelp website for tips and guidance.
Raj then worked with Tamanna to make the necessary changes.
Raj arranged for Tamanna to attend a four-day training course with Release Potential* after learning that not being able to find a job after spending so much time looking for one had really affected Tamanna’s self-confidence.
Release Potential help up-skill those preparing to return to work.
During the course, Tamanna attended a CV clinic, undertook interview practise and participated in exercises to build confidence.
Tamanna shared: “I found it extremely useful and looked forward to applying my learning in a real work
Raj also helped Tamanna identify transferable skills.
But despite feeling more confident and prepared. Tamanna still had not found a new job.
Then one day, Raj called her about an admin vacancy at the Jobcentre Plus.
Raj asked Tamanna if she was interested and arranged for a face-to-face interview. This marked their first in-person meeting.
Tamanna says: “Because I knew Raj, I felt comfortable. I was also looking forward to putting a face to a name!”
The interview went well and Tamanna was offered the role.
She adds: “I was really excited to get the job and it’s a good stepping stone for what I want to pursue in the future.”
As an Administration Officer, Tamanna believes that previously being in the same position as customers enables her to be better at her job.
“I know what it’s like to be on the other side, so I’m always empathetic.
“I’m patient with everyone I speak to and am careful to explain all the information they need.”
Tamanna was able to get a job she loves thanks to Raj’s mentoring and support. She urges other jobseekers not to give up.
“I know it can be really demotivating, but you should never stop trying.
“Soon enough, something always comes up.”
Raj adds: “You must remain resilient despite the rejections.
“It’s been a really difficult year for everyone, and Covid-19 has slowed the economy down. But as things start to pick up, there will be new opportunities to embrace.”
While the pandemic has had an effect on jobs, vacancies have returned to pre-pandemic levels so there are jobs out there to apply for.
These case studies provide an insight into both sides of the spectrum.
Akers Afzal and Fozia Farooqi have provided guidance on what they experience at work and offer guidance to jobseekers.
Meanwhile, Tamanna Begum revealed her struggle when it came to looking for a job and the help she received from her Work Coach in order to secure a job.
The JobHelp website opens up the expertise of DWP Work Coaches to jobseekers who are unable to claim Universal Credit while offering Universal Credit customers an online resource to refer back to throughout their job search.
To get started on JobHelp, visit https://jobhelp.campaign.gov.uk.
*Eligibility criteria apply. Please enquire with your local Jobcentre Plus.