A European-funded scheme which helps unemployed people aged 25 or over to get back into work could be extended in Bridgend County Borough until 2020.
The ‘Bridges Into Work 2’ project, which is backed by the European Social Fund, aims to improve the skills and employability of thousands of people who are long-term unemployed or economically inactive in some of Wales’ most disadvantaged areas.
Participants are given one-to-one mentoring to help them search for jobs, write CVs and improve their personal presentation skills, while there are opportunities to gain formal qualifications via vocational training.
Additional support is also available for people with barriers to employment such as work-limiting health conditions.
The project started in Bridgend County Borough in 2015, and is also running in Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil and Torfaen.
The project was initially funded until 2018, but Cabinet Members from Bridgend County Borough Council agreed last week to apply for a two-year extension after being impressed by the impact made so far.
‘Bridges Into Work 2’ has already helped 236 people in Bridgend County Borough, with 129 participants achieving qualifications and 31 people gaining new jobs.
Councillor Charles Smith, the council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Education, said:
“This programme has provided valuable support for unemployed residents who are aged 25 or over to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to help them find work.
“Within the five local authorities involved in the ‘Bridges Into Work 2’ project, Bridgend County Borough is the top performing area for job and qualification outcomes, demonstrating that the project is both needed and relevant in local communities.
“For some participants, the project has been a life-changing experience, and we are keen to apply for it to be extended for a further two years in a potentially final round of European funding before ‘Brexit’.”
Among the local residents who has benefited from ‘Bridges Into Work 2’ is Karen Jones from Porthcawl, who said:
“The scheme has helped me to get back into work for the first time in a long time. I’ve gained a lot of experience, from using a computer to completing a food hygiene course, and I feel much more confident about communicating with people now.”
Another participant, Paul Thompson, signed up for ‘Bridges Into Work 2’ having been unemployed for almost six years. During that time, he had become socially isolated and had developed a number of barriers to employment.
The ‘Bridges Into Work 2’ team put together an action plan which included Paul attending a personal confidence course. He has since settled into a voluntary position at Kenfig National Nature Reserve, and said:
“The course was very encouraging and non-judgemental. I’ve attended similar courses before, but this one was different because the group was small, and the sessions really helped me to build my confidence levels.”
The ‘Bridges Into Work 2’ project targets economically inactive and long-term unemployed people aged over 25 who are living outside Communities First areas. There are other projects that target other age ranges and Communities First areas.
For more information on ‘Bridges into Work 2’ please contact Gemma Hayne at Bridgend County Borough Council on 01656 815317 or email [email protected]