Dave's blogs continue!
Dave tells us how it happens - his way!
Dave Meneer continues to provide us with his take on the variety of activities taking place through the Cornwall Works 50+ and 50+ Cares projects. His objective views and sense of humour keep us all entertained whilst at the same time providing valuable insight into the true benefits of these projects.
“Cornwall Works 50+ and 50+ cares is a programme of individual and often very different innovation projects looking to engage the over 50's in a wide range of work and volunteering opportunities.As a 60 year old and one who has actually been out of work I hope i can bring a unique, comprehensive and insightful look at the wide range of activities involved bringing the whole varied programme alive!”
Read Dave's latest blogs below!
The 50+ Journey.....
Dave summarises a year of the 50+ Journey during 2011 and 2012 in a new brochure available HERE! Dave's humourous reflections on the 50+ and 50+ Cares activities also provide a valuable insight into the true benefits of these projects.
Click here to view the brochure....
Bristol 50+ You can always learn from others
Getting employed again at 50+: a day of learning.
We’ve always felt pretty good about Cornwall’s imaginative and effective response to 50 + unemployment but you can always learn from others; even others upcountry! And that’s just what we did when we went on a day’s fact finding mission to Bristol recently. It was a conference run by TAEN (The Age and Employment Network) and attended by some of the smartest advisors in the west country; we were proud to be invited, happy to share our thinking and delighted to hear what others in the same line of business had to say about what they’d been up to. We got facts, figures and loads of tips on how 50 plussers might better attack the jobs market.
First, a few of those facts and figures.
Those aged 50-69 will increase by 10% between 2010 and 2020 (total over 50’s will rise by 20%) – and those working past 50 are likely to decline…this was likely to have happened anyway but obviously our recessionary times have not helped. More of that later. The actual figures today are that of those aged 50 - 54 80% are in work – perhaps already lower than you might have thought? Of the next group – 55 to 60 – just 70% are working and of 60 to 64 years olds less than half – 44% remain in work when surely a much higher percentage would have wanted to still be earning in these days of lousy pension returns.
And the recessionary response to such gruesome figures in the population at large has typically been focussed on NEETs – the 16 to 24 year old unemployed cohort. The 50+ cohort, though huge and growing is in danger of being ignored; on the scrap heap far too soon – hardly the happily retired silver foxes we see in the adverts. And the re-unemployment rate – those who get back to work within a year is at its worst in the over 50s too – just 25% against an average across the age groups of 31%. The older you are the less easy you bounce back and it is that which we went on to explore in some detail.
One little flickering light at the end of the recessionary tunnel is that small and medium sized companies (SMEs) are more likely to be expecting to employ more in the next year – 23% v 15% showing such optimism last year.
Who are we 50 plussers?
Hard to generalise of course but the generalities are that…
We are living longer and by and large healthier lives…most of us.
We increasingly have complex family structures – busy caring in both directions…likely to have kids still living at home and dependent on us but probably having equally dependent elderly parents; life doesn’t get any cheaper or easier.
We have an uncertain financial status. Tell me about it!
We are quite capable of learning but often lacking the self - confidence to approach it; indeed being that bit more opinionated with age we may not make the best students especially with teachers bubbling with youthfulness.
And whilst we have something of a reputation for reliability when in work we are unprepared to be active and aggressive and confident job seekers.
And there are barriers to getting back into work even for the most motivated and confident…
CVs…many of us have never really had to do one and don’t know how to…what to leave in what to leave out.
Online applications…that’s the way the world is heading…the nicely written letter in the post no longer cuts it with many, perhaps the majority of firms.
Competition…is stiff. As simple as that.
Ageism …is banned by law BUT it’s a fact that most bosses look to employ younger than themselves – they don’t want to employ “mum and dad”! and older workers often simply don’t seem hungry enough. And they can seem to talk down to younger interviewers when they do get that important meeting. They can appear world weary and have unreasonable expectations – the local job with shorter hours and more pay!
On the plus side many 50+ haven’t realised what a range of skills they have acquired along the way – what they can bring to the party that is truly valuable.
An ABCD of jobsearching…
A = adverts…typically in the local paper
B = bureaus…agencies and Jobcentre Plus
D = direct approaches
And there’s an S of course = self employment.
The emphasis from our experienced tutors was for the older jobseeker to focus on the CD of all this; A and B tend to be all about jobs looking for people – big companies looking for round pegs for round holes – recruitment probably CV based, a formal often inflexible process with a chance of getting in often no better than 1 in 100. Gruesome.
C and D are about people pro-actively seeking jobs…often in the SME sector - and the process much more likely to be person based and informal – more of a chance to chat about yourself and your (valuable) experience.
So…the advice was
A for adverts = respond to them when they exactly fit what you have to offer
B for bureaus – register with them, show some interest …you never know.
C for contacts – develop a contacts database – old colleagues and old workmates, old schoolmates even. Sit down and think about who you really know and could approach.
D use the direct approach when you’ve done your homework, tailor-made your CV and really do think you have something to bring to that job. And talking of CVs it’s always worth just tailor making it to fit what may be on offer. Keep it short and concentrate on the last ten years. I may never be able to boast about my o-level in Religious Knowledge from 1967 ever again!
The aim of all this simple – to get meetings…to get face to face.
And three more things…
Develop IT skills – easily enough said but often easily enough done too; I am typing this in a Starbucks on what was once a puzzling and intimidating laptop! This is the first computer I ever bought – I was 60.
Develop or make sure you sell transferrable skills – what have you done that could be easily bent to fit somewhere else – we all have them – combined with experience they can unlock the door to that new job..
Volunteer – more and more we hear this. Keep your hand in. Get out and do something. Instead of the worrying gap on the CV there can now be a few months of “I did this”…a sure sign that you’ve not given up. Just listen to all the glowing positivity from those “games makers” who volunteered this summer to make the Olympics and Paralympics such a success.
Dropping into DISC
Popped in for one of their occasional open days on Wednesday; sadly missed the full English – must get there earlier. These open days are a get together of many of the smartest voluntary and charitable organizations in the county – a networking (dreadful expression!) extravaganza for anyone who’s helping those of any age who need help across the county. DISC is a natural and very welcoming home for all that. So the place was buzzing. I’ve only got room to mention just 4 of them.
First, the Samaritans were there, still going strong after nearly 60 years; 18,000 trained volunteers from all walks of life giving nearly 3 million hours of their time a year – time you can’t put a price on that, especially when you realise that that means 5 million contacts from people in distress – still 93% of them on the trusty phone…some things never change. And that number in Cornwall is 01872 277277.
And another household name – the YMCA gives counselling and guidance too to 14 to 25 year olds who want a sympathetic ear or helping hand and they’ve still got accommodation in Penzance.
The big new source of support for those out of work of course is the Family Programme – called Cornwall Works With Families round here - managed in Cornwall by Paragon Concord and run on the ground by Lizard Pathways (01209 616095). It tackles problems head on that are experienced by families with a history of worklessness where one member of the family is claiming working age benefits – that’s the simple entry ticket and of course we know of plenty of families like that, many of which have struggled for years to get out of the dead end street they find themselves in. Lizard Pathways have been at it for over a decade now so they’re a very safe pair of hands.
And there’s a “new kid on the block” – I’m sure Don Gardner wouldn’t mind me calling him that! Well, actually they’ve been up and running for some time now but it’s the first time I’ve really got up close and personal to a FoodBank. You probably know the idea – they simply get hold of food and groceries from wherever they can and box them up in different sizes to suit different household sizes – a family gets more than one person. You’ll see collecting boxes as you walk out of supermarkets – Tesco and Asda have very kindly stepped up locally – and people just walk in with stuff. Actually that’s the richest hunting ground but occasionally supermarkets give a windfall of goods which for some reason or another have fallen foul of their complex delivery systems.
You qualify if you are recommended by any of a myriad of support agencies including doctors and you can get up to three weeks stuff to make the kitchen cupboard look a bit more interesting. In fact full! Don’s operation – called CPR Foodbank run by registered charity Transformation CPR is run out of Centenary Church in Camborne and The Redruth Methodist church in that other place. Further info. From Donovan Gardner on 01209 714592.
Brilliant idea. Like I said of DISC itself once – “every town should have one”!
“If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it”
…or so they say.
Also if you can’t measure it you often can’t get people to invest in it or fund it; so if you’re a burgeoning social enterprise it can be rather crucial that you can measure the impact of what you are achieving so that you can get the financial support to keep doing what you’re doing.
And that’s what 16 students including several ‘50 plussers’ of the School for Social Enterprise (SSE) were at the Eden Project to talk about in an illuminating session led by Caroline Driver – herself a fellow of the first intake of this programme; Eden as fine a place to host such an event as any enterprise in the county or indeed in the country. Social enterprise is what they do. Make money, educate on the environment, employ lots of people, have an enormous economic effect on the region. Easy.
Social enterprises are simply that – businesslike enterprises that are dedicated to make a social or environmental difference with the money they make or can raise. It’s the “social” bit that puts the social into “social enterprise” – it’s all about what you do with the profits and surpluses not just use them to line shareholders’ or the bosses’ pockets.
It’s not a new idea, the Victorians were quite good at it, but it is a feature of our times and the generality of Big Society thinking. And it’s become very much a feature of many over-fifties’ lives – for many experienced people it represents a challenging and rewarding new path…running their own business, being the employer rather than the employed. Doing what they want to do – often something they’d always had a hankering to have a bash at.
The concept is simple – can you manage a thing they call “the triple bottom line” – building a business that is commercially viable, environmentally sound and socially driven – in short, can you make money, employ people, walk more lightly on the planet and do good. That’s what everyone in the room was all about – working in a remarkable variety of different areas – from green holidays to a festival of the cosmos and from breathing life into end of life computer equipment about to be thrown out to making hand-bags. A mixed bag indeed.
They were all doing that and keen to learn how to do it even better – hence School for Social Entrepreneurs. They’re on a 6 month course to learn from the best in the business. So they’ve looked at business principles and the environment and they all already have their social mission, their way of changing the world. But how do you measure the effect of the social side of such projects?
Financially it’s easy – either you’re making a bob or two or you’re going to go bust! Environmentally, too, you can monitor what you do, how your carbon footprint is looking – are you walking lightly?
But the social bit is harder. Individual stories are easy to get as is anecdotal stuff – but hard evidence? Evidence that says we did this to this group of people and this happened…or better still will happen! If you invest in us!
And it’s hard. Working with soft touchy- feely stuff always is but there is no doubt that small changes to the way society works can pay huge dividends. Taking the NEET teenager in a new direction can pay back big-time over 50 years, stopping the prison leaver re-offending is one of the big problems facing society. The list is never ending. So we went back to first principles.
Asking ourselves… Who will see the change we want to make happen? What questions do we need to ask them to see whether they really are going through that change and that it might last and really have a social impact? How can we measure that distance travelled? Caroline taught us to start small – measure the basics, don’t try to measure absolutely everything. Think what you’re going to do with the information you glean – where will it have most effect on investors or funders – genius in the simplicity.
And talking of genius – remember that talent borrows , genius steals… so check out what others are already doing. That’s one of the beauties of social enterprise, it doesn’t come with all that rapacious baggage that much of the commercial world brings with it. Companies in this sector are typically happy to share their learning for the greater good.
Enterprise with a friendly human face. And hopefully a measureable one.
Two plus two is four. Four plus four is eight. It can all add up to a job…
It is a while since we updated on Money Skills for Retail or Smart Savings Retail as it is now known; they took a break for a while to review their provision and then have been able to continue it with Working Links funding picking up on the Cornwall Works 50+ initiative and now it’s back – bigger and better. Jane Jiwa who runs it has an encyclopaedic knowledge of down to earth finances, advising on all sorts of areas where we all need some help from time to time. But this particular initiative is all about teaching and coaching the skills required to make a success of a life in retail; indeed it is all about getting that career in the first place.
The whole project is all about practical job focussed learning to help you get that interview and then get through it with flying colours. Jane can do this not only through her own skills and background but because she had gradually built up a splendid team of trainers often actually working at a senior level in retailing themselves. Names like M&S, Sainsbury and TK Maxx tumble from her enthusiastic lips. The big boys on the high street are beating a path to her door now.
Why? Because she knows her stuff, has a proven track record and they know that anyone who’s been through her programmes will have the edge over those who have not. Retail is one of the few sectors currently always on the look - out for talent; people always have to buy groceries, Christmas comes around the same time every year. They need staff. Always.
But the skills she teaches are of course transferable – basic arithmetic, people skills, customer service, security procedures, stock management, health and safety etc etc etc are in demand everywhere. Sadly or perhaps reassuringly she has a waiting list – 75 waiting, only room for 15 on the next 4 day course in Truro in a week’s time. If that works…and it surely will… there will be more, maybe right across the county. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more relevant programme to get people into work or back into it. She is no longer just 50+ focussed, though there are plenty from that age group in there.
Now she’s working right across the age spectrum and it will be interesting to see whether that variety is a help or a hindrance. What happens when you mix a 60 year old who learnt pounds, shillings and pence at primary school with a twenty year old who looks at you strangely when you mention shillings!? Well there were 20 to the pound and 12 pence in each shilling which was commonly known as a bob and of course 30 pence made up a half crown and…oh forget it! The lovely Sarah (all of 22) and Jane - not much more - looked at me like I was from another planet when I started on about all that.
But there is not a business I’ve been involved with (and there have been a few) where those basics have not been essential; handling the numbers is what business – any business – is all about. Get it right and you’re in with a chance – get it wrong and you’re nowhere.
And one more thing. Jane noted a basic idleness in applying for retail jobs. Which often means filling in online application forms. Damned boring I know but ‘tis the way of the world these days. So she coaches all that, not only teaching the “how to” but getting applicants to put a bit of effort in too. Some basic skills and a little bit of effort – it all adds up.
“it’s just a shower”…
“But it did start back in May”…
..it’s always good to get a cheery welcome from Rich at Surf Action. There we were at the café atop the beach down at Gwithian wondering whether a stroll down the beach, even wetsuited up, was really worth it. Not for me or Sarah you understand but for the gang of wizened ex combat vets that Surf Action were planning to see action with in the waves this November, sorry, July morning.
We sipped our coffee and tried to see out the windows which actually needed windscreen wipers slapping time to be able to see through today. What an abysmal summer. Tom Waits famously wrote about driving in driving rain in a song about a mid-west truck driver as “These diamonds on my windshield – these tears from heaven”. Oh, really Tom? Summer 2012. Cornwall. Tears from heaven indeed.
But Rich was up and at it all smiles and action and ready to go. Russ had stayed back in the office – fund raising allegedly. Hmmm…
So the Surf Action boys are still at it. Hob nobbing with Prince Charles one minute and Rich paddling in the maritime marathon around Brighton Pier last weekend to raise funds the next. Well actually it was pier to Hove and back and then back and then back again. Just the 26 miles. Just the 6 hours. But 5 grand in the bank.
And they’ve been hobnobbing with that lovey gang at Shelterbox too; this could be a marriage made in heaven between two of Cornwall’s finest.
Every Town should have one!
That’s how I finished my last piece on DISC in Camborne and with a rather enjoyable symmetry those five words can be the start of this one; and it stiil rings true – more than ever. Camborne has something really rather special at its heart and now Lorna talks enthusiastically of “cloning DISC” elsewhere.
She’s on it. And she’s also on about training people to be volunteers and administrators who can run such places; she’s writing the training programme right now and it’s bound to be right on the button I reckon. Clone the place. Clone the people. I reckon the former will be easier because Lorna and Penny are really rather special.
They’re having another open day in September – first or second Thursday and Friday – watch this space. OK, open days not open day! Hard to tell the story of this remarkable place in just one day anyway. It goes from strength to strength. I had a meeting in Hayle but the magnetism of that 50p breakfast lured me to turn off the A 30, and well worth it it was. A bit slow in arriving though – took all of 20 seconds! About 20 in there enjoying it and another 3 having a crafty fag on the doorstep as I arrived.
And I was able to check out the other clever room that I hadn’t seen last time – a library, a meeting room and a “cyberspace” – 3 computers available to all to check out stuff on the internet – chase jobs, sort out accommodation. And Lorna tells me they now have a roving laptop too that you can write your CV on. Clever stuff. Useful stuff. Basic stuff. Stuff that people out of work and looking to turn their lives around need. This place has it all. Did I mention the phone? Yep, that’s free too and is very rarely abused. Give people trust and they’ll give it back.
Last time I never mentioned the laundry out back either, or the shower and those solar panels on the roof weren’t in place then. I suppose churches have always looked skywards …now they get other energy from up there too. It all helps keep the running costs of this place down. Crucial.
And then fed and coffee-d I snuck my car out of the Aldi carpark, before I was clamped, happy that I’d dropped in again and looking forward to the next time. What do people struggling with life’s big challenges really need? Real down to earth tangible support, in a welcoming place – a place that builds confidence and makes everything feel that bit better from the moment you walk through the door. Can’t wait ‘til the next time.
Every town should have one.
“Today was a different day…”
And indeed it was. That was Tim Cocks summing up another of his fine sessions of Active Plus – regularly working with the over 50s to help them get the skills and confidence and attitude to get back into work.
Sarah Yeoman my charming recently graduated partner and I went to catch up with Tim who has long been at the centre of Cornwall works. Sarah had spent some fun days with Tim last summer and she , like me, was a little surprised at the change in tone of the day but it is surely a fact of life for unemployed people in these troubled times.
The difference? It was tough. The audience was tough. Things are getting tougher out there…or certainly not getting any easier. Light at the end of the tunnel? I wonder. Seems an odd thing to say when virtually every report I’ve filed has been about an uplifting session, about an upbeat few hours. But it can’t always be like that can it? And this wasn’t.
This was about a frustrated, sometimes cynical and occasionally angry group of people looking for work. A group irritated by endless schemes and programmes and initiatives that seemed to be going nowhere . Puzzled by what they could and could not go for. What real support there was. And intensely infuriated by “online applications” which instead of easily enabling applying for work more often threw out perfectly good applications on some cyber - technicality. It was gruesome stuff. And I understood every word, every tear jerking irritation that these people face day in day out as they struggle against a system that seems to have the dice stacked against them.
We heard of the trials and tribulations of dealing with ASDA’s online application scheme – make one mistake and you’re out. For six months before you can apply again. But then we also heard of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s attempts to employ locals only to find migrant workers more likely to step up. And we heard that constantly good news that B&Q have a soft spot for the over 50s …the over 55’s even. A soft spot for some hard work. Reasonably paid. There are jobs out there but getting into them or even getting an interview can be soul destroying.
Sue from the Job Centre ran through an impressive list of job possibilities …some of them “just in”…only to be greeted by a chorus of “yeah I know about that one…over 50 hours a week, most of it nights” or “yeah that driver’s job is 25 hours a week every other week” – even if it paid £15 an hour that would be less than 10 grand a year…and these people have families. Like I said it was tough.
Jon - our favourite war vet, battling his own way back to delivering like he knows he can - went through an incisive 40 minutes on interview technique…how to get noticed, how to acquit yourself in that stressful environment, how to be remembered for all the right reasons by the interviewers at the end of a day of interviews. How to set the pace, how to take over the interview, how to manipulate THEM. How to get the job! Some of it was eagerly written down, some of it fell on deaf ears. Ears not bothering to listen.
Sarah carries on with more on Jon’s fascinating talk a little later in our joint report; with my life half over (!) and hers about to begin she is naturally that bit more interested in interview techniques and certainly learnt a lot.
And Tim remained as upbeat as ever…accentuating the positives and playing down the negatives. Riding above surly attitudes and tired and cynical body language. Striving to build confidence and to find ways to get the best out of “the system”, to deliver for these understandably aggrieved and increasingly frustrated people.
“Cornwall Works for 50+”’s heart remains in the right place, its various initiatives laudable and largely effective, its workrate second to none. But it’s a tough world out there and it’s not always easy to keep the spirits up.
A different day indeed. As Sarah's younger head discovered too.....