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Meet one of our newest Navigator Developer’s Sarah based at FVAF in the Forest of Dean. Sarah has recently joined our team to support GEMs with their employment journey, providing personalised 1-1 support and working together with individuals to create a detailed action plan which is focused on their career goals.

Prior to joining the GEM Project, Sarah had been working in the Welfare to Work and Employability sector for around 10 years. Her role as an employability tutor saw her teaching people how to bring out the best in their skills and experience on their CV’s and at interviews, whilst also teaching subjects such as Customer Service, Digital Skills, Employability, Hospitality and Retail courses.


Why did you decide to apply for the Navigator Developer Role?

"Unfortunately, COVID-19 took its toll on the company I last worked for and after 4 months of furloughing the team, they decided to close down.  This gave me an opportunity to re-assess the work I was doing; I had spent the past 4 years travelling extensively for work and being away from home far too much. 

The Navigator Developer role appealed to me as it’s not just another programme that moves people into work or training programmes, the GEM Project takes a holistic approach to each participant and this is something that I feel strongly about, it is really important to me that the customer and their personal circumstances are taken into account when looking at what they do next. 

I also love the fact that I can work within 3 miles of home and be home every day as the whole lockdown experience has really made me realise how much I miss being around my family when working long distances from home."


What’s the last couple of months been like working for the GEM Project?

"I have been working for GEM for just over 2 months now and it has been a really fun experience so far. I have met (mainly virtually) some great people that share the same passion for helping people reach their full potential as me and some very inspiring participants.  I took over a caseload of participants from a previous Navigator Developer and worried that they would not take to me after working with such a lovely lady, but they have all embraced and welcomed me into their lives. 

I have had to learn various new procedures and have even developed a new skill of mask making (sewing has never been my strong point but I am loving it at the moment and even invested in a small sewing machine). 

My participants have embraced meeting up in the new socially distanced way (when suitable and possible) and are all really keen to try new things such as creative stressbusting, yoga and CV workshops, it has been great fun getting to know them as well as the GEM team.  I have also had the opportunity to run a few workshops for the GEMonline timetable; a very new way of delivering workshops for me but they were well received and I enjoyed running them and helping the participants that joined in."


What has been your favourite part about the role so far?

"I think the part that I have enjoyed the most is seeing my participants move forward and develop in confidence; I have one GEM participant who would not leave the house when we first met and now we meet weekly (in a safe way of course) and she is applying for jobs in Gloucester as she is feeling confident enough to do this.  She has taken part in all sorts of online workshops and says she feels I am really helping her to build her confidence. 

Another of my participants told me that he really feels the support I am giving him is giving him a purpose to get out of bed and start to change some things in his life; this really is why I love this type of work. 

It is great to work within my local community again and have a much better work/life balance."

Our Navigator Developer Sarah shares her experience so far working for the GEM Project

by Nikki Davies

Have you ever thought about working for a project that helps individuals move closer towards or into employment? 

The GEM Project supports individuals across Gloucestershire to get into or closer to employment through mentoring, goal setting, gaining skills and personal development and we now have a new vacancy for a Partnership Co-ordinator.

The GEM Partnership Co-ordinator will work on behalf of the GEM partnership and stakeholders to strengthen existing connections and establish new ones. It is vital that the breadth of opportunities, services and expertise of the GEM partnership is shared and communicated effectively in order to i) maximise the quality of GEM provision, ii) raise awareness and ensure referrals into the programme, and iii) further increase the positive perception and recognition of the strength of the GEM partnership.

The GEM Partnership Co-ordinator will be dynamic, creative, an exceptional communicator and have a good understanding of the employment, education, and support services in the county.

For full details about this role, please click the link below:

GEM Partnership Co-ordinator job description

Applications are to be made by sending a CV and covering letter outlining your suitability for the role via email to, and addressed to Jason Dunsford, Head of Employment & Skills at Gloucestershire Gateway Trust. The deadline for applications is 9am Thursday 17th September.

Please specify in your application if you would like to be considered for the full-time post, a secondment or a part-time/job share opportunity.

Gloucestershire Gateway Trust is an inclusive employer. Information about this vacancy in alternative formats is available upon request.

For an informal conversation about the role or questions regarding secondment or job sharing, please make contact with Jason Dunsford via email at

The GEM Project is jointly funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and European Social Fund. 

The GEM Project is recruiting!

by Nikki Davies

Navigator Developer Jen based at Forest Upcycling Project shares her experience on how she supported one of her GEMs back into work.

"When I first met Steve, I felt overwhelmed by his story, so I cannot begin to imagine how it was for him.

In 2017, at the age of 28, Steve had a series of full seizures, these terrifying experiences led to being told he had brain cancer. The tumour was removed but some was wrapped around his right-side mobility cord. So, Steve emerged from 10 hours full awake surgery with limited use of his right side, in particular his arm and hand. Steve went from being a full time working agricultural engineer, deer stalker, fisherman and outdoor enthusiast to being a disabled person, stuck at home trying to come to terms with the enormity of the changes in his life.

Steve was referred to GEM by the Forest of Dean Community Wellbeing Service. When we first met, we chatted about his interests and passions – the great outdoors, wildlife, the Forest and photography. It was clear to me at this stage that thinking about jobs was premature; Steve needed time to adjust and rebuild some confidence and self-esteem.

So we walked and talked a lot! The Forest was our workplace and Steve has shared with me his knowledge and love for everything wildlife most generously. We both agreed it was important for Steve to keep connected to his real passions. I applied for a Barnwood Trust grant for outdoor clothing and they generously awarded Steve £300 which we spent on walking boots and shoes, clothes and other outdoor equipment. I also introduced Steve to FVAF and the Foresters Forest Project and the Walking with Wheels (WWW) mobility project – Steve is the volunteer photographer for the WWW publicity materials and a regular litter picker for the Love Your Forest team.

Steve was referred by his GP for exercise on prescription and was supported at the leisure centre gym in Cinderford to improve his fitness. He lost weight and has increased the mobility in his right arm. Steve has been determined and dedicated to getting himself as physically well as possible. He has had regular check ups and scans and currently is cancer free which is amazing. He is desperate to get his driving license back soon so he can buy an adapted car and really get his independence back which will open up even more opportunities for him.

Over time Steve played around with ideas about returning to work; always hard for him to find a balance between what he would like to do and what he is able to do and at times very upsetting for him to consider. He recently contacted his old boss at Wye Adventures who has now been able to start up his canoe hire and adventure business following the lockdown. He offered Steve a role which includes meeting and greeting customers, preparing the canoe equipment for hire, sanitising the gear and generally helping out.

I asked Steve what the best things were about getting a job, he said “being able to work again; the camaraderie and banter of being part of a team.”

It has been a privilege and an inspiration to work with Steve. Being back at work has really lifted him, given him more purpose and confidence. Proud of you mate!!"

A massive thank you to Jen for supporting Steve with his GEM journey. 

Steve's determination, bravery and support from Jen helped him overcome one of life's hardest challenges and find work

by Nikki Davies

As lockdown restrictions start to lift, our Navigator Developers are now able to start meeting with GEM participants to help support them with their employability journey and general wellbeing.

The safety of our GEM team, participants and the community is our biggest priority and following government guidelines, as well as social distancing, we wanted to ensure that our Navigator Developers were equipped with the recommended PPE.

A massive thank you to our former GEM Ibrahim who has kindly taken the time to make over 50 reusable face masks for our team to use.

Before coming to the UK, Ibrahim was a tailor in Syria. His GEM journey led to him becoming a self employed tailor, with his main contractor being Emma Willis. Read Ibrahim's story here:

Former GEM Ibrahim helps keep our GEM team safe with his brilliant talent

by Nikki Davies

Navigator Developer Sam based at The Brandon Trust, has been working with a GEM who has autism and suffers with social anxiety to help build her confidence and support her with moving closer towards finding employment. The Covid-19 situation dramatically impacted on A’s progress that she had already made, but over time, Sam has helped her to rebuild her confidence.

“A’s social anxiety was so severe that she would not leave the house unless she was with a family member. She also has very low self esteem and confidence, so she never sees the good in her or that she has achieved anything positive in her life.

During our time together we had made great progress, A was coming out with me, trusting herself a little and even made it to an employability program with Commercial Foundation in Cheltenham. She was doing really well, in fact they wanted to welcome her back as a volunteer for the program. Then Covid-19 forced us all into lockdown and A had become really poorly with the virus. She took a few weeks to recover but it was apparent all her confidence had gone. Therefore, over video calling I started to encourage A to try and be more independent around the home, yet one thing she refused to do was go back outside, not even to the garden! We talked a lot about this over our video calls and it was clear to see this virus had affected A. 

By taking baby steps I managed to persuade A to stand in her front garden with me on a video call chatting to her about each other’s surroundings. The following week, we moved as far as her garden gate. Each week we video called, A managed to make it a bit further and ended up a short distance from her house to a green area where we chatted about the houses around us and other things we could see. Over the last few weeks, I have gone in person to meet with her so we can go for walks around her neighbourhood together, adhering to social distancing guidelines.  As lockdown is starting to slowly ease, I can see A becoming a bit more enthusiastic about the future and before long she will be back at Commercial Foundation, volunteering and helping others who are about to start their employability journey."
A's parents are so grateful for the support she has continually received even during this time: 

"My daughter has continued to receive support from Samantha throughout the pandemic. This has aided her enormously. Prior to the virus, A had made great progress - thanks to Sam's unwavering persistence and constant reassurance. From not wanting to leave home or to have any social contact, due to her autism, she was actually attending Commercial Foundation and flourishing. Sam recognised how important it was for A not to waste all the progress that had been made. My daughter has a close bond with Samantha and knows she can trust her . Thank you to the GEM Project, the Brandon Trust and in particular a big thank you to Sam who puts so much effort and care into helping young people with difficulties."

From little steps to an entire walk, our GEM has reached a massive milestone! 

by Nikki Davies

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