Earlier this year in May, the UK government advertised 2 funds, the Levelling Up fund and the Community Renewal Fund (UK CRF) and after much discussion within WRDA and with potential partners we decided to make a bid for the UK CRF. The project ‘Women’s Skills, Training & Employment Programme’ is the result of agreed collaboration of women’s sector organisations, including regional women’s networks, women’s centres & groups in disadvantaged urban & rural communities across NI. Through this collective power we can maximise our reach, address barriers to training & employment and provide life changing outcomes for women that will benefit them, their families and their communities.
Phase 1 will involve all training & education officers taking part in the GOALS motivational employability programme, and being trained to deliver it, with subsequent roll out to participants.
Phase 2 will involve participants receiving mentoring on a one-to-one basis and completing a skills and needs assessment. They will have an option to access GOALS training and can use the learning to map out a personalised learning plan. This mentoring will continue throughout the programme.
Phase 3 will involve the delivery of a training programme bespoke to each learner; activities based across all women’s centres. The strength of the model is that it allows participants total flexibility to draw down training specific to their needs.
The beneficiaries of this project will be women of working age, specifically and particularly the women who have been most marginalised in society and who have been particularly disadvantaged by Covid-19.
- Unemployed women
- Economically inactive women
- Underemployed women
- Women with little or no qualifications
- Women who have lost employment through Covid
- Lone Parents
- Disabled women
- BAME women
- Migrant & refugee women
Covid has particularly impacted on the economic wellbeing of women, the data shows this in Northern Ireland, the UK as a whole and worldwide. This is partially because the sectors where women are most likely to work are those most impacted by the pandemic, most obviously retail and hospitality. Behind this is the fact that women in Northern Ireland are more likely to be economically inactive because of caring responsibilities – the cost and availability of suitable childcare is a significant factor, as well as caring responsibilities for elders and adults with disabilities – and those women in the workforce who are underemployed or working part time are often doing this to balance these caring roles. This is especially true for women facing additional barriers such as disability, their migrant status, language barriers, rural women in areas of poor infrastructure and where community-based education is lacking; our project is designed with these women in mind and we will recruit these women specifically.
The project has to be completed by June 2022 which will be quite a challenge however, given that women’s community-based education & training programmes remains unfunded this will be a welcome boost to all partners and it may well provide a gateway to the Prosperity Fund (the ESF replacement) which will be launched next year.