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supporting welfare to work providers

Setting up work clubs and group activities

Section image for Finding work - workman standing on a question mark shadow

Work clubs

The Department for Work and Pensions launched a Great Britain wide initiative Work Clubs to help people make the most of local knowledge and resources to help unemployed people in their communities gain employment. In association with Jobcentre Plus, a national network of Work Clubs was launched in 2011 at 35 Exchange Group centres.  Work Clubs will provide unemployed people with a place to meet and exchange skills, find opportunities, make contacts, share experiences and receive support.

Other clubs

The term 'job club' is frequently used to describe groups who get together to help and encourage each other to find work.  We use the term 'job club' below when describing examples of clubs set up by private or third sector organisations who themselves call their groups job clubs.

These are some questions to consider if you decide to set up a club:

Who is it for?

You need to tailor your club’s format to the needs of its membership. For example, a club aimed at graduates and professionals would have a different format from one for manual workers.

In the case of a club for graduates and professionals, it is probably best to have a series of meetings within a reduced time span, such as four to six meetings over two to three weeks. For manual workers, much more support is needed and the issue of poor literacy and limited IT skills may arise. This is often more of a support centre with access to computers, the internet and local adverts and job vacancies if needed.

Ideally, but this will depend on the availability of advisers, the club format will consist of a series of group sessions, followed by individual one-to-one work.

Ideas for group sessions

  • What sort of job(s) are you going to go for?
    One-to-one help with skills analysis and determining options
  • The sort of CV that sells you
    One-to-one help with finalising a CV
  • Getting a job
    One-to-one help with developing an action plan
  • Coping with the different types of interview
    One-to-one help with interview preparation and practice
  • Further meetings: review and changes in approach

How often and where does it meet?

It makes sense to have club meetings once a week, so that it becomes a habit. If it is going to be more often, then it needs to take the shape of a support centre where jobseekers come in to work on their job search. In this case, the centre needs to be set up with all the facilities to help jobseekers with their job search and with job advisers ready to give assistance.

The location of the club depends on the members. If they mainly come by public transport, it is best in a town centre; if they normally drive, an out-of-town venue with car parking suits better.

What format?

Your club should consider including:

  • networking time and mutual sharing
  • what support can / should be supplied
  • helping members improve their job search approaches
  • maintaining motivation and helping deal with rejection
  • one-to-one sessions to deal with individual situations and issues
  • specific help, such as CV writing or interview practice.

Who will run it?

It is very important that the person or persons running the club have credibility and broadly the same background as most of the club members, coupled with a broad understanding of how the job market works.

Overall, it is important for any club to build on the other support being provided to jobseekers, particularly in terms of one-to-one support.

You may find this example of the experience of setting up clubs of interest.

Case study 1: three clubs in the Thames Valley area

Aim
The aim of the clubs was to inform and motivate.

Membership
The three job clubs were all aimed at managerial, professional and executive jobseekers because this seemed to be a group that Jobcentres were finding difficult to help. In practice, while there were no exclusions, the clientele was predominantly older and the average age never dropped below 50.

Younger jobseekers and those who had held manual jobs, while they attended the club, said they found it helpful but tended to self-select themselves out of it. This seemed to be mainly because of the differences in age and experience. Newly qualified graduates are selling their qualifications while older professionals are selling their experience. The two groups’ perceptions of the job market and how they approach it are different. Manual workers can feel inferior and find much of the discussion irrelevant, particularly if the club has a larger number of managerial jobseekers and if they are older.

One of the clubs had ‘escapees’ from other clubs, one run by a retired schoolteacher, and one by an ex-public sector recruiter. Both were too narrow in their approach to redundancies in the financial and IT sectors.

Format

We ran four-hour sessions comprising an open networking discussion or activity, a led discussion and a discussion on a relevant job search topic, and one-to-one sessions as time allowed. Members came and went as they wished or needed to, and there was a weekly email letter to all members.

This case study provides another example of job clubs for unemployed executives.

Case study 2: job clubs (Foundation for Jobseekers)

Foundation for Jobseekers
The Foundation for Jobseekers job clubs assist unemployed executives (average age 50) to return to work by equipping them with modern job search and self-marketing tools and providing the motivation which derives from a peer support environment. There are currently five executive job clubs in the Thames Valley.

Unemployed executives have often not been made redundant before and are usually unfamiliar with current recruitment methods or the public employment system. They need time for re-orientation and re-motivation. The job clubs meet this need through being run by people who have experienced similar situations. The job clubs are volunteer-delivered by people with a sympathetic understanding of redundancy: most have been made redundant themselves in the past.

Each job club meets once a week for programmed job search presentations and one to one help with CVs; career decision-making; networking and self-marketing; interview coaching; and signposting to other agencies. The job club setting also promotes camaraderie among the members and, as well as the practical job seeking support, there is a considerable benefit in terms of the members’ mental wellbeing and continued connection with the jobs market.

This volunteer based approach, provided in a group setting but with significant opportunities for one to one support, is a very cost effective way of supporting higher skilled unemployed people, potentially over lengthy periods of time. Because of volunteer delivery, the cost is £230 per known job outcome. One third of members do not report what has happened to them when they leave but, if the same proportion gets into jobs, the actual cost per job outcome would be nearer to £150.

This case study is an example of a successful job club for people from a range of work backgrounds.

Case study 3: job clubs (Age UK Milton Keynes Employment Services)

Age UK Milton Keynes Employment Services run a regular job club in a meeting room over one of our furniture shops in the centre of Stony Stratford. The venue is attractive and easily accessible with free parking and nearby buses. The club is open to all of our employment service customers who are on Response to Redundancy, Routeways or Nextstep contracts. Many customers are referred from Jobcentre Plus, but we also have many customers who self refer based on our reputation locally. All our employment services are focussed on the over 50’s, but there is some flexibility. The club normally runs every two weeks.

The numbers who attend each job club range between 10 and 25. The club lasts for two hours. People come from a variety of backgrounds ranging from managing directors to manual workers. We originally considered separating out an executive group, but the club worked so well that we decided against it. Some participants have learning difficulties, many are lacking in confidence, some are newly redundant, others have been unemployed for more than two years. But they all have a common need, which is to find work. They gain a tremendous amount from interacting with each other, and often the more confident individuals help people with less confidence. It is great to watch them do this.

The session is run by an experienced manager, and we usually try to have two or three advisers there to help. An aspect of job search skill coaching is always included. We have found that one of the most popular is panel interview practice. The interview panel is made up of job club participants, and they are given carefully and appropriately selected questions to ask the ‘interviewee’, who is also a participant. Supportive feedback is given by the manager running the session. The improvement in performance over a few sessions is clear to all, as is the increase in confidence. Everyone who participates volunteers to do so, no-one is forced to do anything. We also practise people networking skills, answering difficult interview questions, completing application forms, and writing covering letters, etc.

We often have outside speakers, who give their services for free. Sometimes this can focus on a sector, eg the Care Sector, with the speaker telling people about the different types of role available, training, and other requirements. We also invite ask representatives from other third sector organisations to tell people about possible voluntary work and training opportunities within this. We always allow time for participants to network with each other over a cup of tea of coffee.

We collect feedback sheets from everyone and ask for ideas of things to cover. Feedback has been 100 per cent positive. For some it is clearly the highlight of their week. One of the nicest things is watching people grow in confidence and self esteem, but the very best is when we have a message that someone cannot come because they have found a new role! This is a regular event and gives everyone else hope.

Disclaimer
This site is for help and information only. It is not meant as an authoritative guide. It is not meant as an authoritative statement of the law, and future changes in the law and other programmes and initiatives could make it less accurate at times. TAEN, the Department for Work and Pensions and the European Social Fund take no responsibility for your use of the information. You should always take professional advice on any specific legal or financial matter.