Breaking Barriers to Employment

Community Links Scotland worked with Arklet Housing Association (AHA) to develop a programme based in East Renfrewshire that broke down the barriers women from black, minority and ethnic (BME) backgrounds face when seeking further education courses and employment.

Arklet Housing Association has a large proportion of tenants living in East Renfrewshire that are from Indian, Pakistani, South East Asian, Chinese and Eastern European cultural backgrounds. AHA's BME Housing Co-ordinator has had many years experience working with AHA's disadvantaged communities and understands the issues of BME cultures when integrating in to local Scottish culture.

AHA continues to work with the BME community to provide projects that enhance community engagement. Our initial discussion with AHA focused on what groups within the BME community were most vulnerable and ascertained that women found it hardest to make the move into further education, training or employment. The reasons for this included lack of confidence and self esteem due to being away from further education courses for long periods, language barriers and also as women were the full time carers, often to an extended family, they did not have the time. CLS advised that as AHA's BME Co-ordinator knew women from the local community well; she would be the best person to act as liaison.

Once it was established that women were interested in taking part in further education courses, CLS secured funding and helped determine the level and location of these. This involved finding out the informal and formal courses women previously took part in, any barriers that prevented them from taking part in formal education courses, the last time women were in an a formal educational environment and interests for future career paths.

Seven women were very much interested in childcare courses; however, they were apprehensive about studying at college. The next steps were for us to contact Cardonald College whose Community Development Officer was eager to help with an outreach project. We worked with the Development Officer and AHA to decide an appropriate course. In agreement with the women participants, a 13 session course offered an SQA certificate in play. This, in keeping with their abilities and desired level of study and guaranteed them an interview into the full time childcare course at Cardonald College. We then organised a venue in the local area; Giffnock United Reformed Church (GURC) was a great venue as the college tutor could deliver the course in a familiar, safe environment outwith a formal educational setting. Another crucial partner organised by CLS was the East Pollocksheilds Mobile Creche, whose staff took care of the course participants' children also based in the GURC while mothers took part in the course.

An important part of the development stage and in ensuring participants gained their certificates was supporting the women, not only throughout the course, but also following completion. We had to ensure that the programme involved support at the transitional stage of completing the course, through to the interview for the full time course. On gaining their accredited certificates, Cardonald College offered women information on employment advice, compiling CVs, filling out applications and mock interviews in preparation for the full time childcare course interview.

All seven women gained an SVQ certificate in play and are interested in the full time childcare course at Cardonald College with the aim of pursuing a career in childminding. The course has enhanced women's confidence and self esteem so much that they are also keen to work with AHA and Cardonald College on IT courses in the near future.