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We visited Smart Works in Stockport to celebrate the work they do for women across the local community.

For International Women’s Day, Adam, our Marketing Assistant, went down to Smart Works Greater Manchester’s office to speak with Manager Fiona Gunnion and find out more about the incredible work that they do for local women. After all, their office is conveniently located on St Petersgate, right down the street from our Head Office.

Smart Works Greater Manchester opened in June 2015. Today their goal remains the same. To support women in their job search by helping them to unlock their confidence and providing them with interview-appropriate outfits, makeup and styling. During 2019, Smart Works were chosen as one of our Community Awards finalists. They came second place with 640 votes and received £1,250 in funding. A testament to the great work they do in the Stockport community.
 
Immediately after walking into their office you can see how it provides a safe space for all of the women who enter. Interviewing is a stressful situation, especially for those who may not have interviewed before, or at all.
 
Stylish décor greets you in the form of comfy looking couches, right before you see the main event. Rows upon rows of clothes, enough to entice any fashionista! What’s more, you can very quickly tell that these clothes aren’t a collection of hand me downs and worn outfits. But a range of high quality and modern clothes, with enough choice to help anyone dress to impress.
 
Fiona explained that they are sent large influxes of clothes regularly. High quality and interview ready clothes are kept in house for their clients. Quality clothes that just aren’t quite right for an interview are sold at fashion events they run, in order to raise additional funds for the Charity. Anything else is donated to another Charity. 
 
As Adam arrived, a client was on her way out. Smart Works had just finished providing her with interview and style tips, as well as her new outfit, ready for an interview the next day. The client exuded confidence and seemed ready to take on the world! Looking around the office, you can see a great many cards sent in by happy clients. Adam was lucky enough to have a look at some of the cards. One said:
 
“I felt like a VIP and  I am leaving here feeling like a new woman! With the perfect outfit and all the interview advice I feel ready to go out there and get my dream job!”
 
The vibe is very much that Smart Works is not a quick fix, butis actually a life changing service. Whilst the initial interview is important, the sessions they offer can have long lasting effects. The confidence boosting sessions don’t just apply to a single interview but rather to their lives as a whole. Many of these women come away feeling empowered, inspired and highly motivated. In fact, in 2019, 89% of the clients they supported got the job. It isn’t hard to imagine the other 11% finding success in the near future.
 
Whilst chatting, Fiona mentioned how they recently had 72 women seek their services after the Thomas Cook collapse in 2019 which put 22,000 jobs at risk. This was different to who they usually see, as these women had established careers. Many hadn’t interviewed in a very long time, which added to the shock of losing their job and made for a difficult situation. Fiona described this as a very emotional and tearful time as they did everything they could to help these ladies. Luckily, they reported that out of the 72 women, 51 have secured a new role. Interestingly, many switched careers, using transferrable skills that they weren’t even aware they had. Another benefit of the skills coaching Smart Works provides.
 
Smart Works Greater Manchester offer their services to all women in the Greater Manchester area with a confirmed job interview for either a paid role or an apprenticeship. Their appointments are made through referral agencies such as Jobcentre Plus and other Charities.
 
If you believe you could benefit from their services, call them on 0161 974 0669 to find out how you can get a referral. If you’re looking to help Smart Works support women across Greater Manchester, send them an email to enquire about volunteer days here; greatermanchester@smartworks.org.uk.
Vernon Building Society
19 St Petersgate
Stockport
SK1 1HF

Tel: 0161 429 6262
Email: info@thevernon.co.uk

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