Who We Are
Careers Springboard West Berkshire is a volunteer-led support organisation that offers help and advice to out-of-work managers and professionals, especially older and more experienced workers - the average age of our job seekers is 49. It is the successor to the Newbury Job Club. It is a founding member of the Foundation for Jobseekers, an umbrella organisation that comprises five job clubs in the Thames Valley (see useful links on home page).
Background and History
The Newbury Job Club was set up in April 2003 especially to help older professionals, managers and executives in West Berkshire who were seeking new job opportunities, and whom the Jobcentre seemed unable to help. These individuals were coming to IAG Berkshire (now NextStep) for assistance, which was under contract and government-funded to help the lower qualified. Lesley Reilley of IAG set up the Job Club with a bit of spare funding she had available and asked Peter Pearson who had been working in executive outplacement since 1990, to get it operational. In 2004, the funding ran out, but IAG kept it running for a few months before the Branshaw Foundation agreed to fund it for at least a year from September 2004.
In fact the Foundation's funds suported us and our four companion Job Clubs for over 5 years. The other clubs were the two original Careers Springboards in Gerrards Cross and Aylesbury (unfortunately, the Aylesbury club closed in 2013), another club for Windsor & Maidenhead that started in March 2005 and one in Bracknell that started in September 2006. In 2005 the intention was to move the Newbury Club to be led and run by volunteers so that the Branshaw Foundation's funds, which were finite, could be stretched out and used most efficiently. In 2011, a new charity, The Foundation for Jobseekers took over the funding and other umbrella functions from the Branshaw Foundation.
The Relaunch - September 2006
Since December 2004, plans for a volunteer-led organisation in Newbury had been taking shape. A pivotal event was a meeting of potential volunteers in March 2006. This created the core group of volunteers, which has since been consolidated by additional volunteers who have joined after seeing advertisements or reading about the Job Club in the Newbury Weekly News.
Thanks to the hard work by a core volunteer team since Easter 2006, with encouragement and advice from Isabella Kerr of the Branshaw Foundation, the Job Club was relaunched as Careers Springboard West Berkshire (CSWB) in September 2006. We were immensely grateful for all the assistance given by Peter Pearson, who previously ran the Job Club single-handed. He has magnanimously given the new team his presentation material and handouts and has been unstinting in his generous help in making the transition of admistration systems run smoothly.
The current programme still uses much of Peter's material, but has incorporated many of the features of the well-established Careers Springboard in Gerrards Cross, including several meeting features, the induction process, and their 'branding' including logo and design templates. We are very grateful to them for their support and assistance.
Registration as a Charity - April 2014
Several times since its founding the officers of CSWB have discussed whether we, like our counterparts at Gerrards Cross, should register as a Charity. Having charitable status means that it is easier to access funds from grant-making bodies and trusts than if we remained as an unincorporated association. However, the extra bureaucracy, administration, reporting requirements, were felt to be too onerous in proportion to the potential benefit. The Charities Act of 2006 introduced a new form of charity (colloquially dubbed 'charity lite'), the Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). It was decided that this would be an appopriate form of organisation for us.
However, the regulations for CIOs were not put in place until 2013. So at this time the groundwork was done to register. In the end it turned out far from 'charity lite'. For example our easy to read 4-page constitution had to become a 25 page one to meet all the charitable requirements. Our first submission had to be amended to conform with the 'public benefit' requirement, even though the wording of the relevant clauses were taken from that of our registered umbrella charity - the Foundation for Jobseekers! Finally, we were granted charitable status on 14th April 2014, registration no. 1156672. You can read all the nitty gritty at:
Challenges and Continuous Improvement
Over the last few years we have seen shifts in the job market, the process of job seeking and have therefore continuously refined our offer. Here are some of the highlights:
- In 2009 at the height of the recession, we had nearly three times the usual membership and attendance at meetings - over 30 on some occassions
- Although we focus a lot on networking, the online networking service LinkedIn has dramatically changed the way that senior professionals network; we are privileged to have a LinkedIn trainer as a volunteer speaker
- We have broadened our range of speakers, bringing in people from a recruitment background and others who specialise in business start-up support
- Our mix of volunteers has broadened; we now have qualified life coaches who are able to give in-depth 1-on-1 sessions
- We introduced 'Sushi sessions' (now called mini-sessions) - shorter presentations on specific topics added to the end of some of our formal workshops
- Our most recent venture (2013) was with The Watermill Theatre, who as part of their outreach programme, did interview role playing on a 1-to-1 basis with our job seekers
Our ongoing success has been largely helped by our committed band of volunteers who give their time and expertise for nothing. As a result our running costs are relatively low, and we estimate that our cost to provide support is less than £150 per job seeker over the time that they spend with us. However, the challenge remains to find adequate funding for room hire, administration and insurance. To date we have been reasonably successful with grant applications but in common with many other community bodies and charities funding has become harder to get recently.
Interested in Helping?
The years ahead will remain challenging. Despite relatively full employment in West Berkshire, redundancies of senior professionals and executives occur regularly, more so during these recessionary times. Formerly some of those made redundant may have be helped by outsourcing services offered by their former employers, but this is much rarer today. Many of this group will not appear in the jobless statistics and are not a priority focus for Jobcentre Plus or other government aided programmes.
Helping this valuable resource in our community get back into productive work therefore needs a focussed approach - one that we at Careers Springboard West Berkshire beleive we can offer. Most of our volunteers have had large company experience, and several have themselves been made redundant in mid- or late- career. If you would like to join our team, in a speaking, administration, advisory or an organisational capacity please read the volunteers page.
This page last updated 20th December 2015
Important Notice - The information and advice given on this website or by our volunteers is given in good faith. No responsibility whatsoever shall attach to Careers Springboard West Berkshire or any person acting on its behalf for any actions taken by any person acting on this information or advice.