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Some fantastic local employers have recently been receiving 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?
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."
Christmas lunch GEM Project style
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."
GEM Project doubles targets of helping hard to reach back into work
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.
Supporting World Mental Health Awareness Day: how to stay mentally healthy at work
Every year one adult in four, along with one child in ten, will have a mental health issue. These conditions can profoundly affect literally millions of lives, affecting the capability of these individuals to make it through the day, to sustain relationships, and to maintain work.
World Mental Health Day aims to help raise mental health awareness. At the GEM Project we know how important this is. Many of our participants either have had or still do suffer with mental health issues, but if supported well, this needn't be a barrier to work.
GEM tips on how to stay mentally healthy at work
It's really important to work with your employer and to talk to them if you think you are struggling with your mental health at work. It's also really important to stick to your employment arrangements with them, but most employers should be supportive of the following tips:
- Take your break – sometimes we all get busy, and it can be tempting to work through lunch, but everyone needs to take a break. Stick to the time agreed with your employer, but make the most of your break to give your mind and body a break.
- Get outside - if you can get outside on your break, do it. The health benefits - mental and physical - of some time in the fresh air are countless and will make you feel refreshed and ready to carry on.
- End the day with tomorrow’s to-do list. It’ll help you shut off and refocus for the next day.
- Focus on your role – there are lots of things in the workplace that can make you feel uncertain. Focus on your role and skill sets and be proud of delivering.
- Trying to stay in control and on top of things at work will be a huge help for you. However, this won't always be the case, so this it's important to be able to ask for help.
- Play music — on a headset in your break, on the way to work or on the way home. Listen to music that relaxes you and helps you to feel at ease.
- Get your work–life balance right — when you're not at work, try to switch off and make time for you and your family and friends, or join a a local interest group.
- Have something to look forward to – it is easy to feel stuck in a cycle and it is important to have some non-work events to look forwards to from a meal out to your annual holiday.
- Healthy body, healthy mind – ensure that you are well rested and physically healthy. Issues with concentration, memory or vision maybe related to stress so see a doctor if things change.
- Talk – though it may seem like a big step, sharing your feelings or concerns could make a major difference especially if people don’t know you’re suffering. They could offer support in terms of workload or simply help by talking things through.
GEM participants take flight on GEM airport experience day
On Monday 24 September, GEM participants took part in a taster session to learn about the day to day running of Gloucestershire airport. Organised by GEM and Fly2Help, an aviation charity dedicated to bringing the enjoyment of flight to those who may not have had the opportunity to experience it, the day involved learning about the varied employment opportunities available at the airport and enjoying a short flight in a small aircraft. The day was a great success, with all GEM participants enjoying the experience.
Another four participants attended the day to record the day for GEM publicity purposes and to utilise their marketing skills, from interviewing and reporting to photography and production of case studies after the event.
GEM participant Keith said that even though he had lots of experience of airports around the world, it was still interesting to learn about the workings of a smaller airport. Fellow participant Jon, who has previous experience flying gliders and light aircraft, wanted to learn more of airport operations and hopes to one day work in an airport. Other participants also said they’d like to find employment in the airline industry.
Everyone who went up on a short flight loved the experience and the spectacular views, with some even having a chance to steer the aircraft for a short while.
Article written by Daryl, GEM participant