Oxfam Skills For Life Project
Skills for Life was a project run by Oxfam Cymru from March 2017 to March 2018 which helped enable women in Cardiff to gain the skills and confidence they need to progress into decent work.
With a particular focus on Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) women, Skills for Life saw Oxfam Cymru join forces with South Riverside Community Development Centre to deliver a yearlong tailored and supportive programme of workshops, training, professional coaching and voluntary work placements.
Miriam Merkova, Skills for Life project Training Manager tells us more about the program:
I still remember my first interview. I was completely unprepared so when the interviewer asked me to tell him something about myself, I rambled on for five minutes telling him everything that I thought he would find interesting about me. (I’m sure he REALLY wanted to hear about my love of hip hop!) Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.
As difficult as our interview experiences may feel, things are even harder for somebody like Amina. ‘Tell me something about yourself’ asks the interviewer. Amina* speaks three languages, but all the interviewer hears is her broken English. She fled the war in Sudan with her family; she is strong, resilient and resourceful but all the interviewer is thinking about is her right to work in the UK and the possibility of additional paperwork. She has spent the last eight years raising five children but the interviewer writes: ‘No experience’.
The situation does not get easier when women get into work. Women earn 9% less than men doing the same job and individuals from a Black and Minority Ethnic background earn 5.7% less than their white counterparts. Women are more likely to take up part-time work, so that they can look after their children and elderly relatives. These part-time roles are often in sectors that don’t pay much such as cleaning, caring and catering. This means that only 60% of women in part-time work in Wales earn a Living Wage.
The Oxfam and South Riverside Community Development Centre ‘Skills for Life’ project addressed some of the barriers that Amina and women like her experience. The project supported the Communities for Work programme, funded by the Welsh Government and the European Social Fund.
Oxfam’s approach always takes as its starting point what a person can do, rather than what they cannot. Women got one-to-one support from the project’s Livelihoods Worker who helped them identify their strengths and assets, as well as barriers to progression. They also got to spend an hour a month with a professional coach who supports them to set their long-term goals and plan the steps that they need to take to achieve them.
Many women struggle with not having up-to-date experience relevant to the type of work that they want to get into. To address this, we have developed relationships with a network of employers as part of the project, such as Legal and General, Cardiff University, Wales and West Utilities, the National Assembly for Wales, as well as our own Oxfam shops. They provided Skills for Life participants with work placement opportunities so that women could gain the crucial on-the-job skills and experience to progress in their chosen careers. Funds were also allocated to remove any financial barriers into employment such as childcare, travel costs or equipment.
Finally, participants were offered accredited and non-accredited training. This included Employability Training sessions so that the next time they are interviewed by a potential employer, they can talk about their skills, strengths and achievements in a clear and confident manner.
So, the big question: Does it work? Well, what better way to find out than to hear from the women who have been supported by the project.
Skills for Life video –