At Smart Works, it is a privilege to witness the immediate impact our service has on the women we help.

This means the decision to close our doors and suspend our in-person service due to the Covid-19 pandemic, was one of the hardest things we’ve had to do.

Acting quickly, we made important decisions that would lay the foundations for the coming months. We are proud there was not a single day we weren’t able to help a woman who needed our support.

Virtual service delivery: accessible to every woman in need

Our initial decisions were driven by necessity: we had a lot of women booked to see us in late March and early April, and we simply couldn’t let them down. Determined to give them the support they needed to secure jobs and summer internships, we immediately moved our service virtual, not missing a single day of service delivery.

The new virtual service included video coaching, a virtual dressing consultation and bespoke wardrobe parcels delivered in the post. Our clients shared how the service remained incredibly helpful, our volunteers relished the opportunity to do something positive, and our referrers were pleased we were there, alongside them on the frontline.

With travel to our centres no longer a necessary part of our service, our reach became genuinely UK wide and available to any woman.

Our new offering: Career Coaching

As the pandemic took hold, the staff team dedicated hours speaking with our referral partners and understanding the needs of our community.

We heard there was a clear need to support those who wanted to work but were struggling to secure an interview in the job climate. As the economic situation changed drastically, securing a job interview had become just as difficult as getting the job. 

Identifying this as key area to address, we piloted Career Coaching sessions, in which volunteer coaches work with clients to establish tangible steps that maximise her chances of securing an interview and employment. By the end of March 2021, 700 Career Coaching appointments had been delivered across the UK.

Take a look at how we tackled female unemployment in the pandemic

Karla's story

Karla was supported during the Covid-19 lockdown, receiving the full Smart Works service from the safety of her own home.

After working in the aviation industry for over 20 years, Karla was sadly made redundant during the first lockdown. She came to us in July 2020 for a Career Coaching appointment, where she worked with one of our expert volunteers to identify some tangible goals and next steps in her journey back to work.

Karla followed the advice given to her, working hard to enrol in lots of courses and keep applying for jobs, and soon enough was invited to three different interviews.

Having been in her previous role for so many years, she was worried about what to expect next. She was also nervous about what to wear as she had always worn a uniform to work and didn’t have any smart clothes.

Karla got in touch with us again and was immediately booked in for an Interview Preparation appointment, providing her with some additional coaching and a parcel of workwear sent straight to her door. 

“I was so overwhelmed. I already felt more confident the second I tried the outfit on, and it all fits perfect. This alongside the coaching and the interview pack I keep reading over has made such a difference to my confidence and I’m truly grateful. The whole experience has been amazing, and I cannot thank you enough, from the advice to the interview outfit.”