Working with our Community Partners: Smart Works Leeds

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We’re proud of the strong partnerships we’ve forged with members of our Community Partnership Network to transform lives at a local level. 

Working with charities and organisations across the country means we can tap into local expertise and vital additional services, to help move our participants forward on their journey back into sustainable employment 

We have been working in partnership with Smart Works, who specialise in supporting unemployed women to overcome their barriers and move closer to the employment market.  

Founded in London in 2013, Smart Works now boasts 8 sites across Great Britain. The charity provides women who have upcoming interviews with clothing and career coaching sessions, instilling confidence in interviewees and empowering them to succeed.  

A number of our Restart Scheme participants have recently been referred to Smart Works in Leeds and London for dressing and coaching sessions.  

With rails upon rails of donated clothes to choose from, participants are assisted by the charity’s expert volunteers with dressing for interview. Accessories such as handbags and jewellery are also provided to complete their looks.  

Through their career coaching sessions, volunteer coaches discuss participants’ future aspirations and advise on techniques and next steps to help them achieve their job goals. Thanks to this unique combination of services, the charity ensures clients look and feel their best heading into their interview.   

Restart Scheme participant, Zohra, was referred to the service by her Employment Advisor, Ahmed, from Maximus’ office in Leeds.  

When Zohra joined the Restart Scheme in December 2021, she faced several barriers to getting back into work, including childcare and a lack of interview and job search skills.  

Despite struggling with her confidence, Zohra was determined to find work. Her advisor, Ahmed, referred Zohra to Smart Works as he felt she would benefit from the service to give her an added confidence boost and help ease the financial pressures of purchasing interview clothes. 

Thanks to Ahmed’s support, she is now ready to get back into employment.  

Reflecting on her experience, Zohra said: “The clothes they’ve given to me make me more comfortable. They suit me, I think it’s perfect for interview. The coaching session was useful; it’s given me the confidence to find the right work for me. ”  

But the support from Smart Works doesn’t end there. Any participant successful at interview is welcomed back for a second dressing session, where  they can pick out a wardrobe that will help them through their first month of work. 

Lottie Roberts, Outreach Officer at Smart Works Leeds, said: “So far working with Maximus and the Restart Scheme has been fantastic. As a result of this partnership, we are seeing women progressing into work, which is really exciting. Some clients who have been successful have come straight back to us to pick out clothes for their first month of work.

“Working with the Community Partnership Network is fantastic for us; it gives us the opportunity to get the word out about our services. We are able reach out to more women because of our relationship with Maximus.

“Moving forward I hope to see many more referrals and I hope that by working with the Community Partnership Network, we will deepen some of the networks and relationships that we have across Yorkshire.

Matthew Bedford, Community Partnership Executive at Maximus, said: “Smart Works Leeds joined our Community Partnership Network earlier this year and have so far been a prominent referral partner for our Restart Scheme participants.

“The support from Smart Works is massively important mainly because it’s focused towards understanding the barriers that women face when returning to employment.

“From my perspective, the main barriers faced by women returning to employment can be complex, from confidence and self-esteem to doubting their ability in the workplace – Smart Works Leeds look to cover any and all of these issues through their approach and support.

“Through our partnership with Smart Works, women from all backgrounds and situations are supported to access an important and successful service to increase their chances of succeeding and sustaining in employment.” 

For more information about Smart Works Leeds, visit: 

23 September, 2022