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Council job scheme helps 1,000 people

A council job programme helping people get their foot on the career ladder has supported over 1,000 people.

Staffordshire County Council’s Open Door programme helps prepare people for the world of work by offering them a twelve week work experience placement.

The programme, introduced ten years ago provides placements with external organisations and within county council departments depending on the persons preferred area of work. The scheme can help graduates, people with disabilities, ex-offenders, children leaving care, and school leavers.

35 year old Rowena Clifford from Stafford is the 1,000th person to have benefited from the programme.
The mum of one, approached the scheme looking for help to change career after being made redundant from her retail job.

Rowena said:

“I’m really glad I was able to join Open Door as this has really helped me find my new career while helping improve my quality of life as a mum.

“Working in retail and being a single parent was tricky because of the hours I had to work – especially having to work at weekends. So when I was made redundant it was a good opportunity to change direction and try to find something that suited me better.

“During my Open Door placement I did three weeks work experience with the county council’s Virtual School team, supporting families with looked after children. Shortly after my placement, and armed with lots of new skills and experience, I was interviewed for an administrative role at Stafford Borough Council and to my surprise I was offered the job. Thanks to Open Door and the hands on admin experience I got, I’m now in a job that I really enjoy, and that fits in well with looking after my son.

Philip White, Cabinet Member for Learning and Employability at Staffordshire County Council said:

“Our Open Door scheme is helping hundreds of people get into paid employment and is something we’re incredibly proud of. Not only does the scheme give people valuable work experience in their chosen area of work but also equips them with the skills that employers are looking for.

“Over the years we’ve been able to help hundreds of people from lots of different backgrounds find work which is not only good for them but is also good for our local economy.

“While on the scheme people get valuable work experience which they can put on their CV, a reference from their manager, as well as access to certain training courses. People also get the opportunity to apply for any internally advertised jobs with the Council.”

52-year-old Karen Seaman from Coton Fields in Stafford is also enjoying a new career thanks to the Open Door programme.

Karen joined the scheme back in October 2015 before securing a full time job with Staffordshire County Council’s Trading Standards team where she is still employed today.

Karen said:

“Before I got my job with Trading Standards I was really struggling to get myself back to work because of my disability. But that’s when Open Door changed things for the best.

“During my Open Door placements I gained loads of office experience, got to do some IT training and learned lots of new skills which was great. Following this, I got the chance to apply for a job with the Trading Standards team and to my delight I was offered the job.

“Two years later I’m still here and I absolutely love my job and being part of the team. I’m so pleased the Open Door scheme is still going and helping people, because without it I might still not have a job and my life could be very different.”

35-year-old Jamie Forsyth from Cannock works for Amey and Staffordshire County Council’s Highways team.

Jamie said:

“I really cannot praise the Open Door team enough for what they have helped me achieve. The words ‘Life Changing’ are often used too easily, but that’s exactly what the scheme helped do for me.

“A few years ago I was diagnosed with Type 2 Bi- Polar and a series of life events later I found I was at my lowest point. Despite having always held good jobs, having worked in E-Commerce, ran a pub for two years and a Prison Officer for 7 years, I found myself in the position where I couldn’t even get a job interview despite applying for literally hundreds of roles.

“Open Door gave me the confidence to return to work and I managed to secure a job with Amey as an Operational Controller, which I am still doing and thoroughly enjoy. This opportunity has literally changed my life and my family’s life, so thanks to the Open Door team and Amey.”

Central England Co-op has operated the Open Door scheme in its Food Stores in Wildwood and Lichfield. James Smith and Harry Wainwright both secured jobs at Lichfield Food Store and Paul Rogers at Wildwood Food Store, in Stafford.

James, 22, from Lichfield, works as a Customer Services Assistant. He said:

“Open Door helped me secure a 12-week placement at the Lichfield Food Store and I spent that time learning and working across several departments.

“After 10 weeks I was offered a full-time job and I have now worked for Central England Co-operative for three years and enjoyed every minute. I would definitely recommend the Open Door scheme to anyone as a great way of getting a foot on the employment ladder.”

26-year-old Paul Rogers from Baswich in Stafford received help from the Open Door programme back in 2012. Paul said:

“I’m very grateful for the support I got from Open Door which helped me get my job with Central England Co-op. I really enjoy my job and all the different things I have to do. The team I work with are very nice and I’m learning more skills and getting more confident each day.

“As a person with a disability and being partially deaf finding a job is really difficult, it’s very competitive out there and sometimes even getting an interview is tricky. Also I didn’t have any work experience until I did my Open Door placement, so getting this kind of practical experience which you can tell an employer about is great. I would definitely encourage others looking to get their foot on the career ladder to get in touch with the Open Door scheme.”

Kevin Morris, Central England Co-op Store Manager, said:

“Here at Central England Co-op we are all proud to have been able to support the work placement scheme Open Door run by Staffordshire County Council.

“We have welcomed several people into our stores who have spent time working across a range of departments. We are most proud of the fact that three people who have taken part in the scheme are now employed with the Society.”

32year old Chris Charlesworth, from Weston Downs in Stafford, also took part in the Open Door scheme five years ago and is now enjoying a successful career with the County Council’s Trading Standards service.

Chris said:

“During my placement I was able to get involved in a variety of different duties within the team which I really enjoyed. When a position became available as a trading standards assistant, I applied for it and to my delight was successful and was offered the job. I have now been in the post for 5 years and really enjoy my work.

“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity that Open Door gave me and I would encourage anyone who is in a similar position to the one I was in to apply.”

22-year-old Jake Whitby from Trentham works for Staffordshire County Council’s External funding team.

Jake said:

“Having recently left university with a 2:1 I applied for numerous jobs but got nowhere, constantly being told I had no experience. That’s when I approached Open Door for help.

“I joined the Strategic Planning team at the council for 16 weeks which was great and helped improved my work skills and confidence massively. When a vacancy in the team arose, then a successful interview I was offered a temporary 3 month contract. This has since been extended and I am now in my 8th month in the role and enjoying it very much.

“I would recommend Open Door to anyone trying to get back into work; it’s a really good hand-up that will help you get your career off the ground.”

Ben Murphy, aged 27 from Tamworth works for the county council’s Adult and Community Learning Service. Ben said:

“I applied for Open Door when I was having trouble finding permanent paid work. I’d gone through several voluntary and temp roles but thought that Open Door sounded like a more promising option, geared more towards me actually entering permanent employment.

“Being able to do work experience within the County Council through Open Door was one of the biggest reasons I was able to find work, as it allowed me to apply for internal jobs that I would otherwise never have seen.”

For further information othe Open Door Staffordshire scheme please contact Vicky Perry on 01785 854486 or email Vicky.Perry@staffordshire.gov.uk