Smart Works Reading celebrates their 400th woman into employment

Deborah Lane, who’s 48, recently got her dream job in children’s education. She’d struggled to find work, with long periods of unemployment and her confidence had taken a knock. Then she heard about Smart Works in Reading, a charity which helps women back into work, by styling them, giving them interview experience and providing a smart outfit.

She says:

I went to see them and it felt a bit like winning the lottery, they took time to talk to me and helped me find my style, little things like choosing the right colours. They gave me interview experience and helped me find my confidence and play to my strengths.

The charity, which started in London, opened in Reading two and a half years ago and has just passed an amazing threshold. Deborah is the 400th woman they’ve helped back into work. A professional team of more than 65 volunteers with a wide variety of experience offers support and practical help to the most vulnerable women.

Sarah Burns, who heads up Smart Works Reading says:

When we opened two and a half years ago we didn’t know exactly what to expect. One of the most surprising and interesting things is we see women from all walks of life going for so many different jobs in different industries, some that you may not expect, from a dentist to a hairdresser to an engineer. Life can happen to anyone at any time and it can really dent your confidence, it could be ill health, a relationship breakup or redundancy. So it was good to see the support we offered Deborah paid off and she got her dream job, she was beaming with confidence and excited about the future.

Many of the women seeking help are single parents – almost 40 per cent – and some are victims of domestic abuse, unpaid carers or long term unemployed. They’ve all been given invaluable support since Smart Works opened its doors just over two years ago and it’s helped them turn their life around. Almost half the women helped by the charity have been out of work for over a year – and more than 1 in 2 succeed in getting the job they go for after seeing the team.

Building confidence in the women is vital – among those helped – women from 16 to 67 yrs. old, refugees, long term unemployed, ex-prisoners, vulnerable youth, and women with mental health conditions.

If successful, they’re offered a capsule wardrobe to see them through the first few months of their new job. It’s vital, practical, non-judgmental help for women whose budget goes on the children and food first. Some of the best-known names in fashion are behind Smart Works, including Hobbs, M&S and Bobbi Brown. Many of the women work in retail and marketing, the caring professions and technology. But Smart Works has also helped a female engineer, a planning officer and a company director.

A special thank you to our wonderful supporters who made Deborah’s day special: