WorkAbility is a work-readiness programme designed to be part of offenders’ sentence in the community and is located in the Stevenage Probation premises.
“It’s helped me with loads of things really. It’s a good course, it covers everything. It’s not just one thing. It covers money management, if you are struggling with other things it helps you build up your confidence”
WorkAbility Participant 2019
HACRO has designed the WorkAbility course specifically to help ex-offenders return to a full and satisfying life, while serving their sentence in the community. It runs over eight weeks with two half day sessions per week. There are two separate themes which run in parallel and together provide an effective ‘life skills’ package:
- Personal Skills for Life
Covering: management and securing employment: developing a positive attitude; individual beliefs and values; identifying personal strengths; writing job applications and CVs; attending interviews and projecting yourself successfully; managing personal finances; healthy living; stress management; self-employment possibilities; setting personal goals and planning your future.
- Kitchen and Cooking Skills and Food Hygiene Practices (leading to certification)
Covering: why the hospitality industry offers good opportunities for employment; food hygiene; health and safety in kitchens; planning and budgeting your own diet; using recipes and cooking a selection of popular dishes. Other courses such as customer service, health and safety and first aid are also provided.
We focus not only on the normal (CV creation, work skills, job opportunities and interview techniques) but believe we are different because we include: –
- personal wellbeing
- goal setting,
- financial capability
- customer service
- understanding what employers expect of their employees.
Throughout the workshops our service users complete a series of questionnaires to help them focus on where they are in life, what motivates them, and what they may need to do to progress. Regular reviews are also carried out to track their progress. We provide a workbook which comprises a series of thought-provoking questionnaires and exercises which relate to the session topics.
Our tutors are supportive and non-judgemental and create an environment in which people are encouraged to contribute to a wide range of discussions to help them focus objectively on their current work situations and what they can do to improve their chances of gaining rewarding and sustainable employment.
This leads to a City & Guilds Level 2 qualification in Basic Food Hygiene which can help service users apply for jobs within the hospitality sector.
The effectiveness of the courses is measured by both the participants’ evaluation of the relevance of the skills and knowledge learned (scores range from 90% to 100%), and equally importantly by the increased sense of overall wellbeing they achieve over the duration of the programme.
The end of course wellbeing scores averaged 25% improvement, as measured on the Warwick-Edinburgh Well-being Scale, and in all cases greatly exceed comparative scores at the start of the courses. Participants who complete the course usually earn both a City & Guilds Level Two certificate in Food Safety & Hygiene and a Level Two qualification in Customer Service.
Feedback continues to be very positive and the workshops are evolving to meet individual needs:
“Therapeutic and self-awareness; learning about myself; got me thinking about my future plans; sharing our motive; great tutors.”
“Being confident and ready to face the world in difficult circumstances.”
“More confident about job. More information about CV.”
“Communication and informative; I learned from discussions; thought provoking; learning how to talk publicly; informative.”
We are grateful to the management of BeNCH and the NPS for their support and we hope to continue to work closely with them so that WorkAbility becomes embedded in the rehabilitation agenda for Hertfordshire.
We are also grateful for the support we have received from the VINCI Foundation who not only gave a grant which enabled us to buy kitchen equipment and a second set of laptop computers, but through their subsidiary, Ringway, are supporting their staff to help with the delivery of aspects of our courses and will be considering some of our participants for employment.