Skip to main content

A new exhibition of words and images has opened at Stroud and Stonehouse train station, celebrating the railway and the Stroudwater canal. 

The work was a collaboration between one of the GEM Project's partners Creative Sustainability, in partnership with Great Western Railway and the Association of Community Partnerships, along with Park Junior School, Stroud College and people from the local community which included two GEM participants. 

The exhibition was designed to build confidence, create opportunities and develop skills, by providing local people the chance to get creative, have a voice and showcase their work in public. 

The images for the exhibitions were created by Stroud based photographers Ruth Davey and James Kriszyk, photography students from Stroud College and local photographers, including the work of two participants enrolled on the GEM Project. The words and poems that supported the exhibition were written from pupils at a local school. 

Anna Reeves, Navigator Developer at Creative Sustainability comments, 

"Our 2 GEM participants were delighted to go along to the opening of the exhibition and see their work on public display as posters on the station platforms. They have both gone on to do further photography courses and it is likely that they will both be exhibiting work at the Stroud Festival of Nature. I'm hoping that a third GEM participant will also be joining them and exhibiting work."

Creative Sustainability would like to thank Great Western Railway and ACoRP for this opportunity as well as sponsoring the project. 

Stroud and Stonehouse railway exhibition showcases GEM participants' work

by Nikki Davies

Q:  Many people see the new year as a fresh start, do you see lots more people coming into The Nelson Trust? 

A:  The start of the year is often a really busy time for the staff at the Nelson Trust as people are either making decisions to start their year afresh and change their outlooks, set some aims and make some changes, or others find it really difficult to manage at this time of year due to depression.

Q: Are people also more keen to talk about getting back into work? 

A:  A lot of clients and participants are keen to start the year with fresh objectives to get training, gain qualifications or get into work. Nelson Trust staff often refer their clients to the GEM project and the majority of my participants were clients at some point. With a bit of experience, we tend to keep the clients with their key workers so that I can focus on education, employment and training with them to support them with developing their future.

Q: What happens the first time you meet a new participant?

A: The first time I meet a new participant, I go through a series of questions, I will either meet them with their key worker, or if they’ve been referred through the GEM Project, I carry out an initial assessment for both the Nelson Trust and GEM. I tell them all about what the Nelson Trust and the GEM programme offers and see if they think it’s appropriate for them. You’d be surprised how much people open up, even on that first meeting and by the end of the first meeting, we have usually set up a future meeting in a couple of weeks time.

Q:  How do you motivate your participants, and keep them motivated when there are bumps in the road?

A:  My clients frequently suffer from anxiety and depression and have days and weeks or even months where they really struggle to stay motivated. They frequently don’t even contact me or come to the meetings we have set when they’ve had a big set back. At these times, I try to stay motivated and positive myself, I try to help them see the positive side of their experience, I try to motivate them to get feedback or look objectively with them at what went wrong where ever possible.

I encourage my clients to keep gratitude lists and use positive affirmations. Sometimes I direct them to books such as The Secret so that they can learn more about being positive, and tell them about motivational speakers or life coaches they can find online. I encourage my participants to attend courses to help them gain confidence and life skills, make new friends and have positive experiences. I’m lucky that we have a lot of positive things going on at the women’s centre for our women that I can direct them to including Emotional Health & Wellbeing, lunch club, art therapy, art courses, craft group and and more.

Q:  What’s your personal motivation or mantra?

A:  I do yoga as often as possible to help me to stay grounded and calm, I keep a gratitude list myself and always try to stay positive. I often use positive affirmations, such as:

‘I am ready to attract abundance into my life’.

Q: What would you say to anyone considering getting on to the GEM Project?

A:  The GEM Project is more than just an educational or training programme, it is about offering personal, support which is tailored for the individual. There are also lots of opportunities that arise through the GEM Project that participants can benefit from, which they might not be offered if they had never been involved with the GEM programme.

by Becky Boseley

Some fantastic local employers have recently received the GEM Exemplar Employer Award, but do you know what it takes to be awarded one, and why it's so critically important to the employment market?

GEM Project Opportunity Hunters Sue Guilding and Tony Solomon explain...


What is a GEM Exemplar Employer?

"In a nutshell, a GEM Exemplar Employer is an organisation which believes that every person should have the opportunity to engage in meaningful work.  An Exemplar Employer will “go the extra mile” by providing opportunities for those who are finding it difficult to enter, or re-enter, the world of work. 

Opportunities offered by our Exemplar Employers include; mock interviews, information events, work experience, site visits, work trials, NVQ training, volunteering and jobs.

Many employers are recognising and realising the positive benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workforce. Rae Hunt, Manager of Hubble Bubble Cafe said: 

“By making a simple adjustment to our training process – including using clear checklists and straightforward wording with Phoebe (who has high functioning Autism and was struggling to find employment despite her qualifications) – we have gained a very valuable member of the team. Phoebe is never late, she works consistently hard with exacting standards and is meticulous in her presentation.  We also gave Phoebe a work trial at the start and could instantly see she would be great for the job.  She performed really well in the interview but the work trial really showed us what she was capable of.”


How are we doing?

To date almost 40 organisations have been awarded “Exemplar Employer” status. The types of organisations which have achieved this accolade include small independents such as Spider Creative and Hubble Bubble Café, to large nationals like the Environment Agency and British Computer Society. We have also awarded certificates to a number of GEM partners including CCP, The Churn Project, and GL11, to name a few.


Our Vision for the future...

We view our Exemplar Employers as a very special and exclusive club – a distinct group of organisations who recognise the value of providing constructive opportunities, which enhance employability and life skills, as well as creating a positive impact on their community. They definitely view it as so much more than a tick in their CSR box!

We plan to hold Exemplar Employer events in the final year of the project, to support these organisations and to offer them the opportunity to meet other employers with a similar ethos and outlook.

Our aim is to have over 100 Exemplar Employers in Gloucestershire by the end of the three year project.

This will help to create sustainability beyond the life of the GEM Project. It will provide a legacy in Gloucestershire of a network of like minded organisations, who are able to champion Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace."

Find out more about how your organisation could become an Exemplar Employer and read about how other organisations have achieved this award.

How to be an Exemplar Employer

by Becky Boseley

On Monday 10th December 20 GEM Project participants came together for a fantastic Christmas lunch, cooked by a previous GEM participant Andy Kirk, who is now employed part-time as a café manager chef at Priors Park Neighbourhood Project, and has been instrumental in setting up the Community Café there. 

Participants from around Gloucestershire joined the celebration held at Priors Park giving them a chance to meet, share their progression and achievements so far on their GEM journey whilst enjoying a delicious lunch two course Christmas lunch cooked by Andy.

Navigator Developer Julie from GRCC said: "I have been so inspired by Andy’s journey on the GEM project that I wanted to arrange this lunch to show case his talent and his progression through GEM. When I met Andy back in April at the start of his GEM journey he had been unemployed for 8 years to due ill health and anxiety. Initially several of our meetings had to be rearranged because he had suffered panic attacks.

I suggested he attend the ‘Feel Good Courses’ being run at Priors Park, where his knowledge and experience on helping members of the Tewkesbury Allotment scheme led to him advising Priors Park on what to make with their surplus of vegetables that they grew.  From there, he then did a cooking demonstration, helped them to set up the Community Café and went on to be employed by PPNP as a Café Manager Chef for the community café.  The Christmas lunch I felt was an apt celebration of how his journey has become complete, whilst also providing inspiration to the participants and showing that with the support of GEM and their Navigator Developers they too can have a successful outcome like Andy."



Christmas lunch GEM Project style

by Becky Boseley

A report by the University of Gloucestershire has found that Gloucestershire’s own employability project – Going the Extra Mile (GEM) – has achieved more than double its target of moving those furthest from the employment market back into work.

The project has already supported 176 people into employment or self-employment, and a further 55 into further education or training.

James, who has a disability and has received support from the GEM project, said: “I handed out lots of CVs, and went for loads of interviews, but nobody wanted me. The GEM project has really helped me. I’m so happy to finally get a chance. It’s nice that someone can see beyond the disability, and that’s all people like us need”.

With the support of the GEM Project, James is now employed with Specsavers.

Since the project launch in 2016, GEM has engaged with over 821 people, well on its way to its target of 1,000 by November 2019. Of these, GEM has helped 269 of these to gain volunteering or work experience, 241 are undertaking actual or practice interviews and 148 people are accessing financial inclusion support.

The results have been made possible by the support of over 40 partner organisations in Gloucestershire – including many Voluntary and Community Sector Enterprises (VCSE) – and GEM’s own network of Navigator Developers working within these organisations, who provide 1:1 support to participants to move them into or closer to employment.

Roselyn, who moved to the UK 15 years ago to seek asylum and was keen to find work, said:

“I thought the only job I could do would be cleaning, but my GEM Navigator Developer Sarah talked to me about what else I was interested in and made me realise I could do more.”

“The GEM Project has been so inspiring, it has given me advice and supported me step by step. I started with no hope but when I got work I knew I could be somebody. I would recommend the GEM project to everyone.” 

Roselyn has since completed the Level 2 certificate for working as a Door Supervisor in private security, funded by the GEM Project, and is now in the process of getting her licence. 

Download the full report.


GEM Project doubles targets of helping hard to reach back into work

by Becky Boseley

Page 1 of 6 Next