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Exemplar Employer Specsavers in Cheltenham headed to Parliament earlier this month to attend a special reception following a nomination by local MP Alex Chalk as Cheltenham Constituency Responsible Business Champion 2019.

After previously visiting the store and hearing about the team’s community inclusion work, Mr Chalk came forward and nominated Specsavers. Emily Ashman, Community Engagement Manager at Specsavers and newly appointed Navigator Developer for Inclusion Gloucestershire, attended the reception to celebrate the chosen champions.

Emily comments, "This is an amazing achievement for the store, and it was absolutely fantastic to be able to go down to London. We are delighted that our work promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace and local community has been recognised."

Alex Chalk, Cheltenham’s MP, says: "I’ve previously highlighted the fantastic work of GEM in Parliament after visiting the local branch of Specsavers and hearing some really inspiring stories. It’s great to see local businesses such as Specsavers become so involved in the community, and I’m pleased to have nominated the Cheltenham Specsavers store for the Constituency Responsible Business Champion 2019."

The 2019 Constituency Responsible Business Champion is a national award presented to businesses that have been active members of the community. The criteria to be nominated includes offering apprenticeships, investing in healthy workplaces and reducing their environmental impact.

Exemplar Employer Specsavers in Cheltenham have been nominated for a national award by local MP

by Nikki Davies

On Wednesday 10th July, over 50 GEM participants past and present, along with their Navigator Developers came together for a GEM Summer Gathering at Llanthony Secunda Priory in Gloucester. Organised by the GEM Participants' Council, participants were able to socialise with other's whilst enjoying food, music and other activities. 

Sophia Taylor, former GEM participant and Co-Chair of the GEM Participants' Council shares her experience of the day.

"GEM participants were invited to a summer gathering hosted and organised by members of the Participants' Council, which includes current and former participants. Some had moved on from the GEM programme into their own catering business and donated towards the buffet lunch. 

The event had music playing in the background throughout with live acoustics playing well known songs from Travis, Oasis and Coldplay. The two guitarists were Paul and Dan, a Navigator Developer and a GEM participant who provided a great atmosphere with their music pieces. 

A slideshow presentation showcasing GEM's achievements and latest news was replayed frequently for attendees to watch and read at their leisure. Additionally there were displays outside the venue showing further information about the GEM Project, as well as other success stories. 

Also outside attendees found gazebos with seating for comfort and shade, giant outdoor games and a henna stall. The henna designs were unique and to a very high standard, I witnessed a few ladies thrilled with their results. 

A lovely displayed lunch buffet was provided, thanks to former GEM participants and others. There was a wide selection of foods including sandwiches, Arabic cuisine and Caribbean inspired options which also catered for vegetarians, vegans, gluten free and halal. Desserts too proved successful. 

After lunch, Navigator Developer Julie from Stroud Valleys Project provided an insightful tour of the surrounding natural area. Julie gave information in regards to nature and wildlife around, as well as taking any suggestion for future improvements. 

The event was finished off with a brilliant raffle, which each attendee had a free ticket for. There was much excitement in the air as well as smiles from the winners. It was the perfect finish to a Summer Gathering and importantly a great opportunity for all participants across Gloucestershire to unite, learn and celebrate GEM's achievements." 


The GEM Participants' Summer Gathering; organised by GEM’s for GEM’s

by Nikki Davies

Gwilym Roberts recently completed work experience at GEM Exemplar Employer Coventry Building Society. He shares his experience and what he has achieved on his GEM journey. 

"Hi, I’m Gwil. I am about to take you with me on my journey and an insight into my work placement experience with the Coventry Building Society and let me tell you it has been a very positive, interesting and enjoyable one.

I’ve been out of work for a while now and found out about the work placement via the GEM Project. As a GEM participant - GEM (Going the Extra Mile), is an organisation designed to help people who have been out of work for a while and/or have obstacles that prevents them from gaining employment with help and support towards growth and development. It was through the GEM programme that I had heard about the opportunity for a work placement with the Coventry and decided to grab at this opportunity by applying for it. It was a big step for me personally and it was one I am glad I took. I was offered an interview and gratefully accepted. Following the interview I later met with Martin Lewis (Lewy), which I did on a very wet day turning up like a drowned rat but enthusiastic and eager to be here, and wanting this experience which for me personally; is a great opportunity to further my goals of getting back into full-time employment.

The meeting with Lewy went well and I was soon heading to Coventry a few weeks later for a two-day corporate induction at Oakfield House. The induction went well and was interesting to learn about CBS. Meeting new people was exciting and also nervy as this was all new to me.

A week later I began at Charlton Court where I met my mentor Will, along with other members of staff.  Will showed me the ropes by explaining and demonstrating his role and tasks with his ongoing tutoring which ranged from running and testing the generator, checking first-aid equipment, testing lights, fire alarms, water temperatures to arranging rooms readying them for meetings to maintenance and the cleaning/washing of the pool cars, and more. I also completed the LMS’ (Learning Management System). Being made to feel welcome and taken under Will’s wing was a huge help with progressing through this experience.

I met again with Lewy for a progress chat catch-up which went well. Not long after that, I travelled with Will to Heathcote to pick up supplies from the printing office and visited the training facilities in Coventry, meeting more people and learning about their roles, which I found interesting.

There was a BBQ and fundraising day and an Exemplar Employer award presentation from the GEM Project awarded to the Coventry Building Society. It was nice to meet and mingle with more people and enjoy the fun games and the food!

From this work placement I have gained valuable experience while learning and participating in the running of the Charlton Court facilities and about the corporation, too. Being in a working environment, meeting and working with new people and traveling to new areas to further my experience has all helped with improving my confidence, and it feels great to have a purpose and structure to my day(s) which I will continue on with by now feeling more motivated, encouraged and more hopeful than I was before to finding future long-term full-time employment.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience, feeling useful, acknowledged and part of a team, and feeling I’ve taken a massive step and made a huge achievement that can only help vastly towards my future goals. I can honestly say I have loved every minute of this opportunity and I have taken a lot of positives from this experience that I will take forwards with me.

I am thankful and appreciative to the Coventry Building Society to have been given this opportunity and to all involved to make this happen. Big love and respect to all."

GEM participant shares his experience of his time on the GEM Project

by Nikki Davies

You may have previously read the success story of GEM Julie. Initially Julie trained as a Graphic Designer but has also worked as a chef, until a back injury as well as mental health issues changed things. Suffering with anxiety and depression, she got involved with Artshape where she has since spent countless hours on her beautiful artworks.

When we met with Julie earlier this year, she told us she'd like to donate one of her pieces to a local children's charity.  Julie said: "I've always liked helping people. I'd like to think of children and parents who are going through difficult times or who are unwell, having the opportunity to escape for a moment and get lost with the fairies in my artwork."

Julie chose to donate three pieces to the James Hopkins Trust, who provide nursing respite care to life limited and life threatened young children in Gloucestershire, either at their centre or in the family home.

Community, Events and Volunteer Manager Ria told us: "We were delighted to welcome local artist Julie Green to our specialist centre, Kites Corner in Barnwood this week.  We were thrilled to receive Julie's generous donation of three stunning, original and unique pieces of her artwork.   We will be incredibly proud to have Julies work displayed for the children to enjoy.  Thank you to Gloucestershire Gateway Trust and their GEM project for making this this possible."

We were delighted to join Julie and her Navigator Developer Donna from Artshape to deliver the artwork to Kite's Corner and meet some of the children. 


GEM success story Julie donates artwork to local children's charity

by Becky Boseley

Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK, running from 10 - 17 June 2019. It also helps people who don't think of themselves as having caring responsibilities to identify as carers and access much-needed support.

There are 6.5 million people in the UK who are carers. They will be looking after a family member or friend who has a disability, mental or physical illness or who needs extra help as they grow older.  This years campaign focuses on getting people connected, and for many carers getting back into work or finding a role that fits around their caring responsibilities may seem impossible, but with the right help from somewhere like the GEM Project, it can be done and can offer carers a great way to meet people and do something for themselves.

One of our GEM Navigator Developers, Ian Mackay, works at partner organisation Forwards, and was assigned a new referal from a carer last July.  "I had a referal from a lady who had been a full time carer for her mother, who had eventually passed away. After a period of mourning, she felt the time was right to start looking at returning to paid work and sought support from the Going the Extra Mile (GEM) Project. 

She had lost all confidence in her abilities and was apprehensive at  the whole scenario of even where to start looking into the employment market. I helped her to update her CV, and we worked on interview techniques to bolster her confidence. I was able to support her on a one to one basis which is a particular strength of the Going the Extra Mile (GEM) project. After a number of job applications and interviews, the participant was successful in securing paid work as a child support worker in a local school. She was very happy and grateful for the support the GEM project via her Navigator Developer provided and firmly believes she would not have secured her employment without that help and support."

If you know someone in a caring role or who has recently come out of a caring role and needs support to get back into the workplace, the GEM Project is here to help.  

For more information about Carers Week you can visit the main campaign website for additional support in other areas.



Helping Carers back into work with the GEM Project

by Becky Boseley

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