When we were fortunate enough to receive an ESF Community Grant to run a ‘Working with People’ project, we aimed to help unemployed people improve skills in working and communicating with others.

We have not failed to be impressed by the two cohorts of learners who joined myself and Chris Hailey-Norris on our training courses and got involved in follow-up learning opportunities.

It seems like an age ago now that we started our first course back on 4th March 2020 at Community House, we had no idea of coronavirus, social distancing, masks or furlough and could sit next to each other and share biscuits.

We managed to get 3 sessions in before Boris announced lockdown and we had to switch online. This was the first sense of the issues around digital exclusion where some learners immediately could not get involved in the hastily arranged Zoom sessions, either a lack of technology or lack of data acting as barriers to participation.

Nonetheless, as time went on group members continued with the course exercises and moving forward with their future employment and learning aims.

We had one learner who took the opportunity to complete his Level 2 Food Safety Certificate during lockdown and another who learnt how to read, sharing her inspirational story as part of National Literacy Week in September 2020.

Come July we were eating out to help out and we were recruiting our second cohort of learners. The next (delayed) course started on 9th September and somehow we managed to hold the whole course in-person at Community House. This time, face masks and social distancing were very much the order of the day.

What have our learners gone on to do?

We are so excited that 3 of our group have gone on to secure paid work, including one who will be working with our organisation as a Selby Big Local Energy Ambassador. 6 have gone on to further education or training, and another gentleman is starting a formal volunteering position.


We have loved hearing the impact of our project on some of the participants:

“12 months ago I wouldn’t have gone into that group but it has massively helped me, I may have come across as confident to others but I wasn’t behind closed doors. It has given me the confidence to throw myself into a role now that I never thought I would have done. I learnt a lot about people through engaging and communicating”

I found the course interesting and it has helped me a lot, particularly since I have been at St Martins House charity shop. I can cover on the till and my communication skills have got better with the customers, I feel more confident talking to people.

I was very nervous and frightened at first but am now doing a hell of a lot since being involved. It has given me confidence in myself and being around other people. I thought I’d never get a job as I couldn’t read and write and that has 100% changed and now I’m going to be volunteering. Before doing this I wouldn’t have even entertained the idea, I would have been too frightened to go due to my confidence and the thought that I may have to write something down.

I wanted to do this course to enable me to do a job working with people and the course has resulted in successful employment in this area. This has been more than I expected or hoped for. I’ve always helped people and enjoyed talking to people but never thought I could do it as a job. I thought you had to have lots of qualifications and a degree.

I learnt more about understanding other people and how to deal with situations and difficult situations such as if someone starts complaining about something and how to sort it out. I really enjoyed the exercise of understanding different personality types and ended up taking it to my children’s school and they did it with all the children.

Working with people is an amazing job that I love doing and am so pleased that our course has helped people develop skills and, crucially, the confidence to do this themselves.