Find out what it’s like to build partnerships that help us register more job seekers onto our employment & advice programmes.

Kaviya on her graduation day.

As an Outreach and Engagement Officer, it’s my job to sign people onto Renaisi’s employment programmes. I do this by making links with organisations that work with people who need employability support and would benefit from Renaisi’s support.

It’s my first job since graduating from the University of Sheffield in MSc Environmental Change and International Development. After my studies, I wanted a chance to work with vulnerable communities. My Sri Lankan Tamil parents sought refuge in Norway before moving here, so I am particularly interested in working with refugees. There’s an emotional connection.

A typical day

I start every day with two 15-minute phone calls. First with the Inspiring Families team and then with the RISE team. We share updates and go over our numbers: we have a weekly registration target to hit.

Once the team updates are done, I start making calls to customers who have been referred to us by partner organisations.  I use these calls to assess whether the job seeker is eligible for one of our employment programmes. If they are, I book them in for an appointment with an employment advisor and make sure they have all the necessary documents needed to register onto the programme.

I did lots of research projects at university where I learned to do interviews and surveys with remote communities and people who are marginalised by society. My studies taught me to listen with empathy, which helps me with the calls I make to potential customers. Each call is a bit like a research project.  

We work with a lot of refugees so I use a service called Big Word to help break down language barriers, things still get lost in translation sometimes though. People who qualify for our programmes can access our ESOL and English classes for free.

Once I’ve spoken with potential customers, I usually have meetings with local organisations to discuss Renaisi’s services and how we can work together to cross-refer job seekers.

Working in partnership

Before lockdown I met with a bunch of organisations to talk about how Renaisi can help their customers, and more generally how we can work collaboratively to signpost and support people together. I have continued to make links and build relationships with local organisations throughout whether that’s in person or over the phone.

Making new connections with community organisations and selling what we can do for people is a highlight of my job. Whenever I pitch Renaisi’s services to a new organisation I explain that our customers get dedicated one-to-one support from a caseworker to find the right job, and importantly they get help with other aspects of settling into UK life. That could be support to complete Universal Credit applications, filling in school forms, confidence-building classes, peer mentoring, IT training; we can even cover the cost of travelling to interviews and suitable clothing for work.

Highs and lows of the job

It’s disheartening when a customer has qualifications from their home country that are not applicable in the UK. But most customers know this before they join us and they’re prepared to retrain to get back to the level they used to work at. Our Transitions service provides specialist industry-focused work placements in the engineering, architecture, and business services sectors. It means we can offer employment opportunities to talented and highly-qualified refugees.

The best bit of the job is when I get messages of thanks from customers who’ve found the job they want or when I hear stories from my colleagues about people benefitting from our support services.

What I’ve learnt

Since starting work at Renaisi I’ve learned that helping someone get a job is not a straightforward process, there are many hoops to jump through. A person might want a job, be really motivated, and have great skills but they also need good English, secure housing, childcare, and the confidence to go for interview. These things all need to be in place before you can get a job and it takes a network of people and organisations to do that.

As an employment & advice services team, everything we do has a purpose and that is to help individuals to develop personally and professionally so they can build a better life for themselves and their family.