THERE’S never been a better time to start looking for an inspiring career.
Certainly that’s the message from Tina, a work coach from Manchester who spends her days helping jobseekers skill up and get into work.
And she should know, as Tina, who is in her early fifties, recently moved from a freelance career in marketing after work dried up when Covid-19 hit.
“I tried to think positive. It was a great opportunity for me to spread my wings – and it really has been. I love what I do.”
Although the pandemic has brought about huge changes in the job market, the good news is that there’s record numbers of vacancies across the UK right now – 1.2 million jobs on offer between September and November 2021 with opportunities you can step into almost immediately in sectors like social care, hospitality, manufacturing, IT and green careers, which support the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Plus, the Government is doing everything it can to help with a whole host of schemes and training – and Jobcentre Plus-based work coaches like Tina – all designed to equip workers with the tools and skills they need to find rewarding opportunities, including older job hunters over 50.
For Tina, it was a case of researching what was available and keeping an open mind. “I found the Department for Work and Pensions was running a big recruitment campaign for work coaches – not a job I’d ever considered, but I like people and thought it could be a rewarding role,” she explains.
“I did two months of quite intensive but very interesting training and started in March 2021.
“My role is very fulfilling. I build a relationship with my customers – some of them are going through tough times and I’m there to help. I meet some amazing people and it’s satisfying to feel I’m having a positive impact on their lives.”
One of the people benefiting from Tina’s expertise and the help on offer is her client Steve, 63, a single grandad from Manchester. After three decades in the military, he was working at Manchester airport as a baggage handler and in ground-to-flight communications when he was furloughed during Covid. Then, in September 2020, he was made redundant.
“Steve’s someone with presence and character of mind so, taking his military background into account, we decided to explore the security sector,” Tina says. She signed Steve up with Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS), a six-month programme for people who have been out of work and claiming benefits for 13 weeks or more, and it proved a turning point.
Steve says: “Tina was so supportive – she helped me out in umpteen ways. I felt quite downhearted at times – I was bored at home, missing the lads and the team spirit at the airport. I worried, too, about how I’d find a job in my sixties. But when I had my fortnightly meetings with Tina, she really motivated and lifted me up. She gave me so much confidence.”
Through JETS, Steve was given more advice about different sectors that could be open to him, plus help with his CV.
“They updated my CV and added things that I would never have thought of – like how I was a fire marshal and first aider in the Army,” Steve says.
Meanwhile, Tina helped him enrol on a course to receive an SIA (Security Industry Authority) licence, an essential to work in the sector, as well as further training in customer service, diversity and health and safety. She also provided him with bus tickets to get back and forth to courses and job interviews.
Finally, in November 2021, Steve’s hard work and Tina’s support bore fruit and Steve was taken on as a security officer in a supermarket.
Steve says: “It’s a really enjoyable job – I love shouting at people. No, seriously – I’m firm but polite. I try and have a laugh with customers but can be serious when required.
“When I told Tina I’d got the job, she was over the moon. I can’t speak highly enough of her – if you’re over 60 and worried about finding a job, the help and advice of a work coach is amazing.”
THERE’S plenty of misinformation when it comes to finding a job when you’re over 50. Tina’s advice is “don’t get taken in”, and instead, talk to your work coach for real help and support. In the meantime, here’s her take on a few myths to ignore:
Myth: the Jobcentre Plus just wants to stick me into any old job
“It’s a shame when people come in with that perception because it’s certainly not true from where I sit. We offer a bespoke job-search service, tailored to people’s personalities. Shoving people into any old job isn’t sustainable – we offer a variety of schemes and support to ensure people find long-term employment they want to get out of bed for.”
Myth: I’m too old. Potential employers will choose a younger person
“This is simply not true. Of course some roles – like bar staff in nightclubs – need people who have the energy to run around, but there are a lot of areas where somebody more mature has an advantage. Fact: a third of the UK workforce are over 50 – you’re not too old!”
Myth: I’m a single mum – there are no jobs that fit around childcare
“Hospitality offers shifts from 8am until 3pm and the Government can help fund places at breakfast clubs. Or what about working in a school as a teaching assistant or lunchtime supervisor? Our sector-based work academy programme (SWAPs) offers up to six weeks’ on-the-job experience for people interested in working in schools. And I have customers who are mums going into nursing and midwifery – we even host ‘meet the employer’ days with the NHS so you can find out for yourself about your own particular circumstances.”
Myth: I’ve had loads of unsuccessful interviews – I’m obviously unemployable
“Our new Restart scheme, for people who have been out of work for at least 12 months, offers enhanced, tailored support and some of that is around interview skills. It offers access to the latest technology so you can simulate interviews for yourself and play them back and take psychometric tests. This technology helps with CVs too, for candidates who aren’t getting past the application stage – it scans and scores your CV so you know where you can improve.”
Myth: People don’t understand how my anxiety affects my job search
“We work with fantastic providers in the mental health sphere so we’ll address your anxiety and find the right help for you to cope with that. Remember, the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service is free and provides support and tools to people with mental health conditions seeking employment and in work.”
Myth: I can’t get a job as I have a criminal record
“Certainly a minority of sectors are closed if you have a criminal record but there are plenty you can find work in. Be honest and chat it through with your work coach who can put together a tailored plan – you’ll find a path back to employment. For instance, Timpson, the high-street cobbler and key cutter, actively recruits ex-offenders – 10 per cent of its workforce have criminal convictions – while Greggs, through its Fresh Start programme, runs employability skills courses in prisons and offers work opportunities to former prisoners.”
Myth: I can’t get a job because I struggle with reading and writing
“We work with providers that offer training in literacy and numeracy – again, be honest with your work coach and they will help you access support. In fact, we offer free training in pretty much anything you can think of, so take advantage of all the opportunities offered to you.”
For support, advice and on-the-job training as well as information on benefits, check out jobhelp.campaign.gov.uk