Rural service helps get people back to work

A RURAL project has helped about 60 people find work or start their own business since its launch 12 months ago.

Designed as a rural job centre, the Coquetdale and Whittingham Vale Work Web offers specific advice and help for those who struggle with the additional challenges of finding work in rural areas.

People using the service have benefited from having access to help at a local level.

One of its most successful aspects has been a weekly drop-in session in Rothbury, hosted by Gemma Douglas, of the Glendale Gateway Trust, and Anne Lawson, of Northumberland Business Services Limited (NSBL). The scheme also worked with Stuart Athey, of the Rothbury and Coquetdale Youth Project.

Working together, the team helped with practical skills such as CV-writing and job applications, advice on local job vacancies, training and enterprise coaching to help people considering starting a business.

After being unemployed for three months, Craig Speight, who lives in Rothbury, visited the Work Web for advice.

Following some volunteer work at a local garage, he was keen to pursue a career as a mechanic. The Work Web helped him update his CV, allowing him to successfully apply for an apprenticeship as a mechanic.

Craig, who began his apprenticeship in March, said: “Having the Work Web drop-in service in my local village has meant that I could get careers advice without having to travel.

“Stuart and Gemma have been really helpful with things such as applying for a grant to buy work tools and finding volunteering opportunities at the Youth Project and a First Aid at Work course.”

Mum-of-two Avril Graham initially visited the drop-in service for help in finding a part-time job which would fit around her family commitments.

However, she soon decided that starting her own cleaning business was the new direction she had been looking for and began accessing the advice and guidance of Work Web partner NBSL for business start-up information.

She said: “With encouragement from NBSL’s Anne Lawson, and several meetings to discuss financial planning and marketing, I launched Sparkling Clean. I was assisted with a small local development fund grant from the Work Web to buy items necessary for my business and for initial advertising.

“NBSL gave me the confidence necessary to take the plunge and develop my idea into a realistic plan. Having NBSL at the Work Web drop-in is a great idea as I have been able to meet with two services during one appointment, saving me time and money in travel costs.”

When Caroline Jackson visited the Work Web, she had already decided on a career in air traffic control but she wanted advice on the best entry route.

Following communication with two air traffic control colleges, Caroline has just sat an aptitude test and will pursue sponsorship through these colleges if she passes.

The Work Web service also helped her find an English GSCE course locally in Alnwick and access a small grant towards her course fees.

Caroline, who lives in Rothbury, said: “The Work Web drop-in has been an invaluable service for me which is on my doorstep. As a single mother I would have struggled to get the help I’ve received without having the Work Web in the village.”

While the Work Web project has now come to an end in Glendale and Coquetdale, the service will continue to list job vacancies and training courses on www.workweb.org.uk with basic information listed on digital screens at several locations, including the Londis shop in Longframlington, The Poachers Rest in Hedgeley, Phillips Newsagents in Rothbury and Whittingham First School.

NBSL will continue to run free appointments from 1pm-4pm every Wednesday at the Jubilee Hall in Rothbury.

Anyone considering self-employment can call Catherine Sims at NBSL on 01665 602173 to make an appointment.

The project was hosted by Glendale Gateway Trust with the support of Northumberland County Council Employability and Work Service, Northumberland Business Services Ltd and One North East.