Sumithra’s journey towards returning to work started with a simple wish to do something different with her day. As a mum to 7-year-old and 20-month-old daughters, she was looking for a change from her regular routine and through the GRoW Programme found inspiration for a new career.
Sumithra said “I found out about the GRoW Programme in a leaflet at Sheringham School in Newham and thought it would not only be a break from my normal day but also a good opportunity to explore ideas around returning to work. As a mother to two young children, the GRoW Session’s focus on working in schools aligned perfectly with my family’s needs as I really need a job that allows me to work the hours that fit around my children. I had prior work experience in retail but had taken a career break when I had my youngest child, planning to go back to work when she begins nursery next year. The timing of the Programme was therefore perfect for me as it has motivated me to start the journey towards work now rather than waiting until she starts.
The GRoW Programme offered comprehensive training, covering CV building, interview skills, and for those people who are interested in self-employment, business planning. As well as providing really useful practical tools it did wonders for my confidence and motivation.
As part of the activities, we had to stand up and speak, which being quite a shy and reserved person was quite scary at first! Liz and Michelle who ran the sessions were great at alleviating my fears though, explaining that there are no wrong or right answers which made it so much easier. It was such a confidence booster to participate fully in this way and it helped to get the whole group working together. This was a key part of what the programme offered – the chance to be part of a supportive community with like-minded people – and it was instrumental in helping me feel motivated to work towards my goal.
I have now completed the 5 sessions at Sheringham Children’s Centre and am looking forward to starting the Multiply Programme next Tuesday and developing more skills. These training courses and the school-specific training such as Safeguarding that GRoW have introduced me to will be invaluable for my CV when I start applying for jobs.
The GRoW Programme has been such a refreshing experience for me to do something with my mind and really think about myself and my future and I am looking forward now to the next steps on my journey to work.”
Rabia joined the GRoW Programme in August 2023 after meeting the GRoW Team at Sheringham Childrens Centre, near her home town of Manor Park in Newham. With her daughter soon to start Nursery, Rabia was looking for an opportunity to take her first steps back to work.
Rabia said; “Being a stay-at-home mum had taken its toll on my confidence but I didn’t want motherhood to hold me back. I wanted to get back out in the world and start to socialise again but was finding it hard to get started. What I quickly realised when I joined the GRoW Programme was that it could offer the support and guidance that I needed. Whilst it was about helping mums think about work, it wasn’t focused on just finding a job – any job – it was about looking to the future and working towards meaningful work.
The daily activities and discussions in the programme helped open our minds to new possibilities. There was no one to criticise us or say we were wrong. We were encouraged to think freely, explore new ideas, and even take the lead in our own projects. This I think is very unique and it’s what helped to give me the push I needed.
Before I stopped work to have my daughter I had a variety of work experiences. I worked in a tuition academy in Brixton and in Enfield and worked in retail at ASDA, JD Sports and in charity shops so I have a range of skills. I gained qualifications in maths and physics in my home country of Pakistan but I am keen to attain more qualifications in the UK to boost my CV. The GRoW Programme introduced me to opportunities to take online courses which I can learn whilst my daughter is at Nursery. I have enrolled on to a Teaching Assistant course which I am hoping to start in January when a space is available and I am also doing the Multiply course to improve my maths.
As my daughter progresses through to full-time school my plan is to complete the Multiply courses and then pursue a graduate course before enrolling onto a longer-term professional programme.
Being part of the GRoW Community has been a great experience for me. GRoW has been a really important platform to giving me that gentle nudge to helping me make my dreams a reality and Liz has been so encouraging and motivating and really such a driving force in my journey.”
Pawandeep had been working at a hospital in a housekeeping role at weekends and was referred to GRoW in 2022 for help to increase her hours. With support from GRoW she has now completed a Level 3 Teaching Assistant qualification and is volunteering at a local school with the aim of taking up a new part-time position.
Pawandeep said “My job coach referred me to the GRoW Programme, explaining that they have specialist skills in supporting lone parents into work. I had been working a weekend job but needed to increase my hours for Universal Credit. As a single parent I needed to make sure I had a job that would fit around my daughter and after speaking with Kaneez I became interested in the prospect of working in a school.
I have a Masters degree in history which I gained in my home country but I learned through
GRoW’s Preparing to Work in Schools workshop that to be successful in applying for Teaching Assistant jobs I need to have some relevant experience and qualifications. GRoW found a relevant course for me to do with ABM Training called Teaching and Support Learning and I started last September. As a Level 3 qualification, part of the training includes a work placement and I was fortunate to land a volunteering opportunity at my daughter’s school. I’m really enjoying it and have been combining it with my studies and my weekend work at the hospital. I have now completed the qualification and the final stage is for my tutor to meet with me for an observation and then hopefully I will be certificated. I have really enjoyed the course from start to finish. The tutor was very good and every week we have an online class. I have completed 11 assignments and 100 hours of volunteer work for the placement and it has given me lots of knowledge and experience to now get a job. My next step after receiving my certificate will be to apply for a part-time position as a Teaching Assistant so that I can continue with my weekend work and then eventually move to full time working in a school. The school I have been volunteering in have asked me to let them know when I am certificated so they can put me forward for any job opportunities.
As well as the Level 3 course GRoW enrolled me on a Food and Hygiene course which I successfully completed as this is also a good qualification to have when looking for a job in a school. I have also attended the GRoW Coffee Mornings, which were beneficial and the GRoW App has been a great source of information and advice too.
Without GRoW’s guidance I wouldn’t be where I am now. I didn’t have the support before to learn what I needed to do to get where I wanted to be. The GRoW team have supported me through all of it, increasing my confidence and helping me find the right training and the right career that works for me and my daughter.
Shakila joined the GRoW Programme in May 2023 and has become one of our most engaged and active members of the GRoW Community. Shakila participated in every one of our #GRoWSuccessfulSummer events and is also a GRoW App Ambassador. Shakila is looking for local work in a school as a Midday Supervisor or Kitchen Assistant in the East Ham area.
Shakila said; “Since joining GRoW I have grown in confidence and it’s given me so many opportunities to practice my English speaking and look at what I want to do with regards to work. I completed college-level education in Pakistan, as well as Entry Level 1 and 2 qualifications in the UK. I have six years of teaching experience in a nursery and primary teaching certificates from Pakistan but I am lacking work experience here in the UK and so I am looking at ways I can develop my skills and experience.
GRoW have made me a GRoW App Ambassador which means I regularly post on the App and have to think about the types of topics and information that other participants on the programme might be interested in learning about. It’s good experience for me and is good for my CV too.
All through the summer I have taken part in the #GRoWSuccessfulSummer events and have learned a lot about how to start my journey to work here in the UK. Even though my background is in teaching, to be a Teacher or Teaching Assistant in the UK I would need to have the relevant qualifications and as I am hoping to find work quickly I am keen to get a job as either a Midday Supervisor or Kitchen Assistant as these are positions that are more accessible for me at the moment.
The next part of my journey to work will be to look at some online courses I can do to help boost my CV and are relevant to working in schools. I love being part of the GRoW Community and I look forward to continuing to work with the GRoW Team, Liz, Mercedes and Sheeja who have been so supportive in helping me to achieve my goals.”
Aisha moved to the UK from Pakistan 5 years ago where she had been working as a Graphic Designer. After being a stay at home mum for three years she was keen to get back to work but was struggling with her confidence. She found help through Belina GRoW, which provides support for mothers seeking employment and now has a work placement where she can put her design talents to good use.
Aisha said: “When I first came to the UK I felt I could do anything. I was educated, I had a degree and had seven years’ work experience but being away from the workplace for so long had affected me. I felt I had lost some of myself somewhere. I was feeling quite demotivated and felt I was wasting all of my talents by not using them in so long. Even though I was doing a bit of freelance work and had set up an Etsy shop and an Ebay shop it wasn’t enough to make me feel fulfilled. What I really needed was to start getting out more, seeing people, talking to people, and feeling like I was back in the world of work.
With my daughter due to start school in September I went along to a GRoW Programme session in Newham to find out if they could help me get back to work. There was a creche there which meant that for just a little while I could focus on myself as I knew my daughter was being taken care of and I didn’t have to worry. I got to meet with other women and talk openly about things that I haven’t had the chance to do before. It gave me the opportunity to just be myself for a few hours which was such a positive experience.
The GRoW trainers were so good, they really listen and give importance to each individual person. I really enjoyed it and and it made feel good about myself. It also made me realise exactly how much I had been doing as a mum and that I actually have a lot to offer. I went along to every session each week and I credit those sessions with giving me back my confidence.
After the session GRoW set me up with the GRoW App and I love it! Instead of opening Instagram every day now I open the GRoW App. It is full of really useful information to help you understand everything about getting a job. Sometimes I wake up and open it and see things like the motivational quotes and it sets you up for the day and makes you feel more positive.
I am looking for part-time work and will also be speaking to my daughter’s new school to see if I can do some volunteering work but in the meantime GRoW have offered me a work placement to do some graphic design work for them which is a great opportunity to boost my CV.
Being part of the GRoW Programme has restored my confidence and self-esteem and help me find a way to while still being able to care for my child. It’s been such a positive experience and I am looking forward to starting the work placement.”
In February we introduced you to our lovely participant Vailankani who was one of our most engaged members of the GRoW Community, taking part in every GRoW activity we offered her. Vailankani has worked so hard and taken every opportunity available to her and we are so pleased now to announce that she has now landed her first ever job since relocating to the UK in 2020.
Vailankani said “I am so happy to be able to say that I have found a job and feel so lucky after looking for so long and trying so hard. I heard through a friend that there was a vacancy for a Cleaning position at a Secondary School in Yeading where she was working. As soon as she told me I got in touch and they hired me straight away. I had no prior experience of work in this field and in fact have no prior experience of working at all in this country since I came here in 2020 so I was so pleased to be offered the job and finally have some work experience to add to my CV.
The hours really suit me, they are 1.30pm to 7.00pm Monday to Friday which means I can take my son to school and I have family networks to pick him up at the end of the day. Whilst being part of the GRoW Programme I have realised that working in a school is what I want to do so it’s great that I now have my ‘foot in the door’ in a school environment and that I only need to work Term Time too.
When I first came to the UK I was really afraid, it was a new country and everything was scary but when I came to GRoW Liz, Saeema, Sonia and the team made me feel so much more confident. They put me in touch with people and helped me to make friends which was so important for me as I had no friends when I came here! Even though I have a job now I am still going to continue being part of the GRoW Programme as I want to progress further and reach my goal of becoming a Teaching Assistant or similar role in a school setting working with children, this is my dream.
Being part of the GRoW Programme has been fantastic for me, it has helped me grow as a person, especially in confidence. I can communicate so much better now, feeling confident to talk to people. It makes such a difference to me especially now that I have a job as I can really feel like I am part of a team.”
GRoW Adviser Chantelle El-Sawy has been a regular face to our Hillingdon participants for a number of years but is now focusing her efforts on helping women in Kingston fulfil their potential through the GRoW Programme. Chantelle’s speciality is helping people complete application forms and she is available between 11.00am and 1.00pm every Tuesday for face to face meetings at Kingston Jobcentre at Anstee House Jobcentre Plus, Kingston upon Thames, KT1 1TG.
Chantelle said “For the past few years the GRoW Team have been supporting women in Kingston on their journey to work via our virtual events but now with covid restrictions lifted and everything slowly opening up again it is great to be able to get back out in the real world, helping people face to face. If you have a child under the age of 12 GRoW are able to help you into work or training, whether you have worked before or not, whether you are single or part of a couple and even if your partner works. We can also help you if you are already in work but you earn less than £10.85 an hour. I have a regular spot at the Kingston Jobcentre where I can meet with people who are already on the GRoW Programme and also new people who are interested in joining. We discuss your issues and plans for the future and see how we can best support you. You don’t need to pre-book, you can just drop in and there is no need to bring anything along – just bring yourself and even a friend or colleague if you feel they could benefit from our help too!
As well as helping you into work I am able to help you with other issues such as filling in forms, for example Universal Credit, Warm Home Discount Applications or Discretionary Housing Payments. I also run GRoW’s SEN session for parents who have children with special educational needs so can offer support in this area too, with local advice around SEN service and I can help you complete benefits forms such as Disability Living Allowance or Carers Allowance.
GRoW have a range of events and workshops that we run and coming along to see me at the Jobcentre offers a great opportunity to learn about these events and which ones would be most suitable for you to come along to.
So if you want to know more about what we can do to help you or you want to introduce a friend to GRoW, do come down to Kingston jobcentre and say hello!
In May we published an article about our fantastic GRoW mum Gemma who was one of the first GRoW participants to undertake our Lockdown Training Programme and we are delighted to congratulate Gemma on now passing her course!
Gemma began the course at the start of Lockdown, in a bid to improve her employability skills and open up new opportunities once her young son returns to school in September. She decided to undertake the Level 2 Introduction to Caring for Children and Young People which is an online course that Strive Training were running as part of the GRoW Lockdown Training Programme.
Gemma said: “Being able to take the course from home in my own time was really useful as I could fit it around my son while he was at home.
“I found the course really good, though I must admit it was hard to juggle with homeschooling. When the last day of term came things got much easier as I was able to then concentrate more time on the course. Some modules were harder than others and I was having to use skills I haven’t used since High School! I had a great tutor though who told me I was doing really well and she helped me get through it more easily. She helped me work harder and do better, pushing me to answer questions more fully. What was really useful was that she would give me examples rather than just telling me the answers. This helped me to think for myself and better understand what was being asked of me.
“We communicated through Whatsapp mainly which was really easy to do and she gave me such great support throughout, checking I was doing the work correctly and advising me on whether I needed to elaborate or provide more information for certain sections.
“I’m really looking forward to putting my new qualification into practice now and have already started applying for jobs in schools. I would eventually like to work as a Teaching Assistant so maybe I could even do some volunteering in a school first to help me get my foot in the door. I could then look at doing a Teaching Assistant Course once I have some more experience under my belt.”
Luz was introduced to the GRoW Programme through the Canning Town Job Centre as she was looking for work after leaving her job of 6 years.
Luz said “I had been working as a Cleaning Manager which was very good experience for me and a challenge that I really enjoyed but at the same time I was thinking about doing something different with my life. I went to one face-to-face GRoW session but then Lockdown happened and so I continued the programme online. I am really enjoying being part of the GRoW Programme and you can see all the other ladies on the Programme are enjoying it too by the way they express themselves. We all feel we are growing through the experience.
I am now doing the Daily Steps ESOL Course which is part of the GRoW Lockdown Training Programme. It’s a great course and very easy to do. The course director Jane was the guest at the GRoW coffee morning last week and I got to meet her in person which was great.
I am currently doing the Level 3 ESOL Course but then I plan to do the Level 4 and 5. What’s great about the ESOL course is that there are lots of blogs and information from Jane on the course that help to guide you through the process and keep you on track of what you need to do. After I do the ESOL courses I am looking at doing the GRoW Your Own Business Course with Mercedes Grant and I have been speaking to Liz about possibly doing a children and young people qualification too. Even though I already have a qualification in this area I think it would be good to do a refresh as I am really interested in working with children, perhaps in a Playgroup setting.
It’s been really good getting support from the GRoW Team, Liz, Mercedes and Saeema have been particularly helpful and they have such energy and drive which motivates me to keep doing better. They have given me so much confidence as they make you realise what you have to offer. Sometimes women don’t understand the skills and experiences they have gained in life and how this can be transferred to the workplace, GRoW really helps you be the best you can be.”
Laura came to the GRoW Programme looking for help to get back to work and has now completed two courses and is interested in more training to equip her for the world of work during Covid-19.
Laura said “I first learned about the GRoW Programme following a visit to Barra Hall Children’s Centre in Hillingdon. I was looking to get back to work after having my daughter and a GRoW leaflet at the Childrens Centre explained they could offer me help and advice.
I attended two GRoW sessions in Hayes and found out about opportunities to undertake education and training that would help me get the kind of work I was looking for. Because my daughter is only one I am only really interested in part-time work, particularly work I can do from home. I am quite a motivated person but I found I just needed the right advice about where to go and what to do. I found the GRoW Programme were really able to point me in the right direction and Liz and Tosin were always on hand to give me help and support if I needed it. I attended the Uxbridge Jobs Fair and there was a lot of information available there that helped me understand the type of training and qualifications I would need to get in order to get the types of jobs I wanted.
Before I had my daughter I used to work in a Nursery and so I decided to do a Childminding Course at the Adult Learning Centre and I also signed up for the GRoW Lockdown Programme online training course. I chose to do the Food and Hygiene Course and have now completed both courses which are really important if you want to work with children.
The GRoW Lockdown Food and Hygiene Course was really good to do. As it is all done online it is easy to stop and start when you want which was really important for me as I needed to work around my daughter.
With everything going on now with Covid-19 I am considering telemarketing jobs as there seems to be quite a few jobs available in this area of work. You can work from home which is perfect for me with a baby at home. Tosin has updated my cv for me and I get the GRoW Job Bulletin every week which I find really useful. She has told me that if I do need any help and advice I can contact her anytime which is so good to know.
I am quite a motivated person but being part of the GRoW Programme has really helped me as they have given me the tools to go out and look for what I want.
The next step for me now is to look at doing the GRoW Lockdown Programme Call Centre Handling course as I really think that will really help me get a job in the current climate.“