Kelsie, Employment Officer in the Community Engagement team has been featured in the National Lottery Community Fund ‘Building Better Opportunities’ quarterly newsletter. She opens up about ways in which her workday has changed during the pandemic, and what she’s looking forward to when restrictions ease.
Please see the full article below:
Kelsie – Employment Officer
If somebody had told me in February last year that in a month’s time, we would have to pack up our stuff and work entirely from home, I would have said ‘This job? From home? No chance!’. Then, with what felt like ‘the blink of an eye' – I was sat at my makeshift desk, figuring out how Zoom worked.
The focus of the one-to-one appointments quickly became centred around ensuring the participants were safe, well, and had what they individually needed. Zoom appeared as if from nowhere and has been a hero in making appointments feel as natural as possible. However, the three-week lockdown window soon came and went, and I began to think of ideas for a potentially longer-term arrangement. To maintain as much normality as possible, I adapted session plans to be delivered online and arranged telephone appointments with individuals, in which we would both go for a simultaneous walk, whilst on the phone, as we would have previously done together.
A common action on most individual’s development plans was to increase social interaction, something that had suddenly become more difficult. The team and I decided that we needed to implement sessions to aid this as best we could; we set up a virtual job club running via WhatsApp, a virtual coffee and chat session via Zoom and some fun quizzes alongside regular one-to-one appointments to increase social interaction and boost morale. I continued to recommend attending online courses, safe volunteering, and saw several participants step up to volunteer for Community Gateway to help deliver some of our services.
When lockdown restrictions eased last year, it was possible to safely meet participants in the community, provide some training courses, and referrals into the project started to pick up again, which was a welcome step forward for us all. A challenge that we had faced was individuals not having the digital equipment to stay in contact with us or not feeling comfortable with phone or video calls. During this period, we were able to do our work face-to-face, meet participants who we had never physically seen before and give valuable social opportunities to participants who had been quite isolated.
Whilst face-to-face contact will never lose its value in my eyes, I have been in awe of how the participants have adapted and continued to break down their barriers to achieving their goals during this time. In the height of lockdown, one participant started his own business in Digital Marketing and a participant who I was never able to meet face-to-face started her career with the Kickstart programme. These are just a few examples of the hard work and determination of the individuals on the project.
Now seasoned in the art of working remotely, I look forward to celebrating National Employability Day at the end of April with the rest of the team, our participants, and the wider community. This year it feels particularly important to celebrate the work of projects like these and the people who have benefited from them. We have lots of remote activities planned throughout the day, including guest speakers from key employers in Preston, to give advice and information to participants around their field of work, and Q&A sessions for the public to find out more about the projects and support we offer.
I asked Caroline, a Changing Futures participant, how she has found the support she has received during this time and if it has been of benefit to her, this is what she said:
Being on the Changing Futures project has been so beneficial to me. When I consider where I was last year, to where I am now, there is a big improvement. I was depressed, very anxious and in a dark place. After seven years of avoiding socialising with people, I am now volunteering and giving something back to my community. Kelsie has helped me with my confidence, self-esteem and encourages me to believe that I can achieve my goals to living a better quality of life. I feel understood with no judgement and prompted to keep going when I need it. I am so thankful for the support I am receiving, that is helping me on my way to a better and more successful life.