Officially launched by Mayor Marvin Rees at City Hall yesterday (5 February) the initiative is jointly funded by partner organisations and Stepping Up - Bristol City Council’s leadership programme.
The scheme includes a five-week course focusing on personal development, confidence and employability skills and five weeks of part-time, voluntary work experience at a leading organisation in Bristol, with participants who complete the course likely to secure either an apprenticeship or employment.
Mayor Marvin Rees said at the launch that going back to work was not only transformational for women but for their families too.
He said: “There is millions of pounds worth of talent, drive and productivity that are left behind each year because we don’t have the infrastructure to support people back into work which is why we included affordable child care in our One City plan as a priority issue."
Councillor Helen Godwin, Cabinet Lead for Women, Children and Young People said she welcomes the new Bristol-based initiative which is seeking to address issues of both social mobility and inclusion.
She said: “Returning to work after having children can be a daunting prospect. I know from speaking to women in my ward in Southmead and across the city, there are complex obstacles that prevent women from re-entering the workforce, including a lack of confidence or the fear that their skills are outdated. The family-friendly Women’s Work Lab is a much needed alternative to more traditional employment schemes or those aimed only at professional women.
“The training programme and professional work experience offered by the Women’s Work Lab gives women an opportunity to access employment and career progression, and improve their lives in a significant and meaningful way.”
On the programme, participants will be able to do an voluntary work placement at partner organisations including AXA PPP healthcare, law firm Burges Salmon, GKN aerospace, the University of Bristol, North Bristol NHS Trust and engineering firm Jacobs.
The inaugural course has 12 places but is already well over subscribed with over 50 applications from women keen to enroll. Co-Founder of the Women’s Work Lab, Camilla Rigby, said she is delighted that both mums and professional organisations are keen to get on board.
She said: “All mothers should have the opportunity to reach their full potential in the workplace regardless of background. We want to enable more women to access jobs in organisations that they usually wouldn’t consider; enabling them to build a career that improves theirs and their family’s future and help reduce social inequality."
Single mum of two, Tivoli Everett-Rimmer, age 25, from Bristol has not worked since becoming a parent five years ago and is excited to start the course. She said: “I used to work in administration but have really lost my confidence. I believe the Women's Work Lab will help build up my skills and support me with finding flexible, meaningful work around the school day. I want to be able to provide for my family in a better way than being on benefits.”
Samantha Cuffy, 30, from Shirehampton, also a single mum, has two boys aged six and 10. She said: “I'm on my own with my two lovely boys and despite completing my level 2 accounting qualifications with a distinction I have struggled to gain employment because I've been out of work for ten years.
“I've had interviews and got down to the final two, but I'm always told the other person has that bit more experience than me and I'm unsuccessful. I am finally feeling confident that once I have done this programme I'll be able to start my career and provide for my children in the way I've always wanted to."
Applications are now closed for the February 2020 cohort but they are taking expressions of interest for the September 2020 cohort. To find how to apply follow this link: www.womensworklab.co.uk