FENLANDER: How Chatteris Community Job Search offers a lifeline for those seeking employment

WHEN times are tough and jobs are hard to come by, anyone looking for work needs all the help they can get.

One place they can go to find it is Chatteris Community Job Search, based at the town’s King Edward Centre.

Every Monday four volunteers are on hand there to provide support, advice and practical assistance – and occasionally a shoulder to cry on.

The project was set up a few months ago under the aegis of the Chatteris Community Centre Association. Already it has about 60 clients on its books, with at least two new ones joining each week, according to Andy Marshall, one of the volunteers.

“We have close links with the Jobcentre in Ely and with colleges and other organisations like the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Prince’s Trust,” he said.

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“We don’t have their expertise but we’ve got a lot of general information and can point people in all sorts of useful directions.”

Andy is supported by three other volunteers - his wife Mell, Barb Couldridge and Barbara Sullivan. They welcome people of all ages and all levels of qualification.

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Andy said: “We offer hands-on help with things like writing CVs, searching the Internet or writing job applications. But most importantly, we’ve got the time to really listen to people and help them to build up their own self-confidence.

“I can’t tell you how many people we’ve had who have come in here and burst into tears because of how desperate they are. There have been tears of despair and sometimes tears of happiness, too, because we have helped.

“Often people don’t realise what skills or experience they have actually got. When you talk to them and listen and give them time, they see they actually have a lot more than they thought. We give them the reassurance that there’s nothing wrong with them – it’s just the market is very difficult at the moment.”

Barb Couldridge agrees. She said: “We can pay more attention to people because we’ve got more time than they have at the Jobcentre. A man I’ve just been talking to went out saying he felt a lot better about his prospects because we had given him time and made some useful suggestions.”

As well as getting sympathetic, face-to-face advice, job-seekers can use the computers available at Job Search to access jobs on the Internet.

Andy said: “There are jobs out there but finding them is hard and it’s just knowing where to look. We put a lot on our boards here and point people to all sorts of websites that they don’t know about.

“The King Edward Centre has been tremendous. It‘s a wonderful place to work and the staff there have been great in providing us with all the help and facilities we need.

“But now we could really do with more volunteers, so if anyone is interested, we’d love to hear from them.”

Councillor Chris Seaton, FDC’s portfolio holder responsible for jobs and economic development, said: “We all know that finding work isn’t easy at the moment and everyone’s resources are limited, so imaginative projects like this are particularly welcome.

“It’s great to see volunteers giving their time to help others in their community and they deserve our thanks and support.”

• Chatteris Community Job Search is at the King Edward Centre every Monday from 9am-2pm. For more details, e-mail jobsearchchatteris@gmail.com or call Andy Marshall on 07504 870138.

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