The withering impact of COVID-19 on jobs can be witnessed by walking down any High Street where the metal shutters have been firmly padlocked.
Economists are predicting that UK unemployment could reach by 2.6 million by the middle of 2021 – that is 7.5% of the working age population.
Much depends on the longevity of the pandemic and the benevolence of the Government’s furlough scheme which has provided a haven for many businesses and their employees.
And as lockdown restrictions are eased this summer, it will be interesting to see which businesses are able to bloom in the quagmire of coronavirus.
Bromley, which used to be an ancient parish in the county of Kent, also sits in the suburbs of the capital as the London Borough of Bromley.
Economists are predicting that UK unemployment could reach by 2.6 million by the middle of 2021 – that is 7.5% of the working age population.”
It has an historically low rate of unemployment, around 3.7%.
But last year, as lockdown measures left thousands without work, Bromley experienced a 182% rise in claims for unemployment benefit – the highest of any London Borough.
That prompted action by Bromley’s eight Rotary clubs and the creation of the Rotary Work Club.
The initiative was founded by Christine Atkinson and echoes a similar Rotary club project from the 1980s.
“For Rotary clubs, support for issues which concern our local community is a key priority,” said Christine.
“The issue of suddenly rising and drastic unemployment is one of the biggest society faces.
“But for the cushion of the furlough scheme, which cannot last indefinitely, even though it has just been extended for a second time, it would be much worse.”
Following on the back of a successful initial launch last October, the Rotary Work Club is expanding its reach to help the unemployed in the area.#PeopleOfAction #RotaryWorkClubhttps://t.co/MFqZvjd2RA
— Rotary GB & Ireland (@RotaryGBI) January 27, 2021
The Rotary Work Club is a course of weekly online learning opportunities to people in the town who are out of a job or feel they are at risk of unemployment – a growing audience that is usually neglected, but which is just as important in mental health terms.
They do not promise a job, but offer free, independent, practical guidance and support.
Christine said: “It is already clear that for some, having recourse to a local, helpful, no-strings resource of help and companionship provides an uplift to mental health at a very difficult time.
“We are not a recruitment agency or job brokerage – we don’t look for jobs for candidates or look for candidates for employers.
“We are also not a job referral scheme, so we don’t connect employers to candidates, or vice versa.”
During the pilot phase last autumn, participants learned useful skills to help them to gain new employment or to start a business.
It is already clear that for some, having recourse to a local, helpful, no-strings resource of help and companionship provides an uplift to mental health at a very difficult time.”
Christine described phase one as a success as the team of Rotarians and volunteer professionals delivered a much-appreciated series of online workshops.
Some of the participants have already found work, and credited the Rotary Work Club for adding to their approach and confidence.
The final session of phase one was attended by representatives of Enterprise Nation, the Federation of Small Businesses, and Nicki Scott, Leader of the Association for Rotary Great Britain & Ireland from 2021-23.
The Mayor of Bromley, Councillor Hannah Gray, added her support to the initiative, saying: “I believe Rotary does amazing work and its members are often unsung heroes. I would like to thank everyone involved.”
Liam Carlisle, Chairman of the London and South East Forum of Credit Unions, is also behind the initiative and he joined phase two of the Rotary Work Club which ran from January through to late February.
The second series of seven Rotary Work Club seminars on Zoom focusses on:
• Getting back on your feet
• Sorting your finances
• CV writing
• Job search
• Interview skills
• Developing your LinkedIn profile
• Starting your own business
Each session is being delivered by trained volunteer facilitators from many different professional and business backgrounds.
“Launching phase 2 means that we can reach out to more of the growing and constantly changing audience of people in need that we set out to help,” added Christine.
“The session content was deliberately made modular and portable so that other people in other areas can use the model created by Bromley’s Rotary Work Club to serve more people in local areas.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is having a well-publicised and devastating impact on employment and businesses.
Launching phase 2 means that we can reach out to more of the growing and constantly changing audience of people in need that we set out to help,”
“The Rotary Work Club was created to help job-seekers gain fresh employment or start a business even against this background.
“The participants include people who hadn’t had an interview in 20 years, some who found application forms hugely challenging, and some who had been told they lacked confidence or enthusiasm at interview, but without being given any advice on how to improve.
“More Rotary areas in the UK and beyond, and more professional volunteers, are coming forward and showing interest in continuing and expanding on this work.”