Islington charity Smart Works provides training and clothes fittings to women who are going for job interviews. They help a wide variety of women from all kinds of backgrounds, including those that are homeless, women who have had career breaks because of illness, motherhood or bereavement, and also ex-offenders trying to rebuild their lives.
The CEO of the charity, Kate Stephens, believes that one of the charity’s main focus points is to empower women. Not only are they given interview clothes, but the clothes themselves can help each woman’s self-esteem and confidence. The backgrounds of the charity’s clients are diverse, and so too are the range of jobs that women across the country are applying for, and the clothes provided reflect that diversity. These include job roles in retail, health, education and law, with suitable outfits available for all types of jobs available in the UK.
Smart Works offers a clothes-dressing session at each of the charity’s wardrobe locations. Many high street brands have donated clothing items, including Whistles and Hobbs. One dressing volunteer, Claire Davis, believes that the dressing session should be fun for women seeking help, and that they deserve to be made to feel special during the try-on session. Many of the women have not had very much time or attention given to them in the past and this is a chance for them to really feel special and pampered, and to raise their self-belief and confidence ahead of their interviews. After their wardrobe session, they are then provided with one-to-one interview advice to boost their interview skills.
Interview volunteer, Ann Fossey, from PR firm Good Relations, also insists that helping to build up women’s confidence is key to helping them into employment. She also thinks that a key element of the charity’s mission is women empowering other women. She believes that it is incredibly rewarding for everyone that volunteers for the charity to see the women they have helped achieve successful careers.
Local MP, Emily Thornberry, recently visited the charity and discovered that it was doing a fantastic job building its clients’ self-esteem and belief in their abilities. In terms of success rates, over half the women who have sought help from Smart Works went on to get the job they interviewed for. After their initial wardrobe fitting, they can then return for a second fitting, in order to provide them with outfits for the initial few weeks of employment.
For women seeking wardrobe and interview help from Smart Works, they must have an interview lined up and be referred by one of the charity’s partners such as the Job Centre and a range of other employment agencies across the country. Smart Works are now located in five cities in the UK but still have very strong links to where they began in Islington and believe that as they continue to grow as a UK charity they will always have strong links and locations in the Islington area.
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