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A Day in the Life of an Employability Mentor

In our new series we will be featuring articles that focus on a ‘day in the life’ of people working in a variety of services and organisations across Ayrshire, whose dedication and efforts are key to reducing re-offending and improving outcomes for people caught up in the Justice system, their families, victims, and the community as a whole.

We would like to thank Geraldine from Justice Services in North Ayrshire for sharing her story with us.

Geraldine is an Employability Mentor based within Justice Services in North Ayrshire.  She has a wealth of experience, skills and knowledge within health and social care, having spent 15 years working within Quarriers Homeless Hostel and The Simon Community Crisis Centre in the role of Support Worker.

Geraldine who had previously worked in Human Resources found her aptitude for supporting people, whilst assisting a colleague who was dealing with a traumatic health experience. Others also recognised the positive way in which Geraldine had supported her colleague and this prompted her to pursue a career in supporting people. Geraldine went on to gain an SVQ 3 Health & Social Care Qualification and in 2017 she secured employment as an Employability Mentor within Justice Service in North Ayrshire in.

Role

When starting in her role as Employability Mentor, the programme was a new project within the service which had been funded through the European Social Fund.  This provided the opportunity for Geraldine and her colleague to develop and build the programme around the needs of individuals, to enable it to be successful.

Geraldine worked closely with her colleague drawing on their experience of working across multi-agency platforms to help develop the programme.  From her previous support roles Geraldine was very aware of the challenges and stigma that people can face within their daily life.  This knowledge enabled Geraldine to approach her role in Justice Services with empathy, trust, and dignity.

The aim of the Employability Mentor Programme is to improve people’s lives, step by step, to gain skills that will enable them to have a chance of reintegration into the community and break down barriers to reduce reoffending.

As this was a new service Geraldine and her colleague spent time working with several different agencies e.g.  DWP, Employability Hubs, Ayrshire Women’s Service, Partnership Delivery Team, Barnardo’s, Justice Fieldwork and Unpaid Work Teams to build relationships and raise awareness of the programme. After attending team meetings, creating leaflets and flyers, attending user groups, and continued engagement with the teams to support the referral process, The Employability Mentor Programme was established.

The service has gone from strength to strength through word of mouth from people accessing the service, promoting it to others.  Which seems to have driven a significant increase in referrals.

“Seeing a person grow in confidence and improve their skill set allows me to see the value and worth of not only this programme but my own involvement within it”

A typical day

On receipt of a referral, I would contact the person and arrange to meet them at the office and start the registration process. Once registration is complete, with the persons full input an action plan is developed looking at education, college, vocational training, wellbeing, and volunteering.  Support materials and learning aids are also created for people which include a job search pack, Interview Skill Guide, Application Form Guide and working on a CV template.  At times it can be necessary for me to meet people out with the office, in the community, in Library’s, Employability Hubs or even a café.

If a person becomes successful in gaining employment / volunteering, etc, employability funds can be utilised to support their initial travel or with materials and clothing if required. I also contribute to a multi-agency model of working, attending Social Work Reviews to report on people’s individual achievements and progress against identified action plan items. I attend departmental reviews which evaluate a person’s progress in completing their order.  I am constantly aware of people’s ability to cope with decision making, communication, confidence building, trust, honesty, and compassion, therefore a whole systems approach is required, and it is so important that the programme moves at the pace of the person and not of the service.

Over the last year due to Covid restrictions I had to work from home and had no face-to-face contact which proved to be very challenging for both myself and the people I was working with.  My role adapted, as not only did I have to undertake my normal duties it was also important for me to keep moral and spirits up with the people I was working with.  I spent some time talking to people about cooking on a budget and suggesting some recipes, as well as suggesting reading materials and tasks or activities they may not have thought about or done in a while. Everyone coped differently during this time, so I had to at times think outside the box so I could try and meet people’s needs.

What I love about my job

No two days are ever the same, every day is different and can bring out a range of emotions and present many obstacles. When someone achieves small goals to change their lifestyle and make things happen for themselves, this is the best part of my role. Seeing a person grow in confidence and improve their skill set allows me to see the value and worth of not only this programme but my own involvement within it.

One of the most special moments in my career was when I was nominated for and successful in achieving the Partnership Champions Award 2020 for North Ayrshire Council.  I was very humbled in receiving this award for doing a job that means so much to me.

“I was very humbled in receiving this award for doing a job that means so much to me”

If there was one thing, I could change

I would like to widen the scope for employability services throughout Ayrshire and work cohesively in partnership with South and East Ayrshire to share our success and see the Employability Mentor Programme mirrored in those areas.

The part of my job I find difficult is when I am working with a person who has shown great potential but then suddenly, for whatever reason disengages. This may be due to personal reasons, or other factors that life has thrown at them, family / peer pressures, substance misuse or further involvement with offending that restricts their liberty.

Looking to the future

At this time in my life, I feel grateful that I have had the opportunity and support to develop this successful programme.   I would have no hesitation in saying this has been the most rewarding and satisfying job I have undertaken. I have been given the chance to deliver and expand this programme to suit people’s needs and at the end of the day, if I can make things happen, this is my end goal. I hope the programme continues to grow and that I will be part of this process for many years to come.

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