Karen is a 47-year-old woman from Liverpool in the United Kingdom. Karen is a single mother with 4 girls ranging from eight to twenty years old. She has no formal qualifications from education school but she has worked as a part-time employee in a variety of areas including receptionist, bar work etc. She lives with her four girls in an area of high social and economic deprivation. She has always been very community spirited and in 2013 she started working as a volunteer in the community café of the Joseph Lappin Centre. After a period, she was offered a part time role within the café and was really happy!
In 2014 Karen’s life changed dramatically, her sister died dramatically of a brain aneurism and she was told in the aftermath that it was genetic and that she had the same condition. She began undergoing several medical tests which showed that she did indeed have clots growing in various parts of her brain and was told that she would need surgery to eradicate them. This resulted in Karen severely losing her confidence and becoming anxious at work as she was overwhelmed with fear about herself and her girls. Finally, in 2015 Karen went into hospital to undergo two operations on her brain and neck to remove two potentially fatal clots. One of these operations caused a brain injury which meant that she had a severe reduction of her soft skills, including confidence, communication skills, planning, prioritising which was compounded by severe physical pain including migraines. Karen was depressed and anxious and was really low motivated. At this point she felt she couldn’t continue with her paid employment but was keen to maintain contact in the centre. When she felt good she helped in the café as a volunteer but did not feel confident or able to start back in a paid role.
In discussion with Merseyside Expanding Horizons, Karen thought Job Yes was an appropriate project for her to become involved in. Although suffering both physically, cognitively and mentally, after the surgery Karen said she would participate in the project and that she had nothing to lose, as she really felt she had lost the ability to even find a steady job. Karen was very concerned about how she would cope with her short-term memory lapses, but felt reassured about the blended learning methodology; though she was worried about working in a group.
Karen explained how she has overcome this fear thanks to the user-friendly tools of Job Yes. She said instructions were really clear and that helped her to understand what she was asked. She was able to repeat exercises to enhance her long-term memory. One of the key elements of the project for her was the online knowledge portfolio as it enabled her to systematize her achievements. Karen thrived in the blended learning approach, she found it empowering as she regained her confidence and the boost to work in a peer group. She found it helped her not just to regain her soft skills but also her sense of self and personality which she hadn’t felt for a long time. She showed her enthusiasm motivation and communication skills, something she would have found impossible to do before Job Yes. She was encouraged to start regular voluntary work in the Community Café. A key element for Karen in Job Yes was her being able to validate her skills through completion of OERS, blended learning sessions, updating the online knowledge portfolio and action plan. This, combined with the face to face support and encouragement from her peers and the trained facilitator, meant that she felt confident again about her skills and encouraged to accept paid employment when she was offered it by the Community Café Manager What was new for Karen was the flexibility of Job Yes, she did not feel under pressure or time restricted, she could complete whenever she wanted.
Since participating in Job Yes, she has a new awareness of her skills, and the café said it is like having a “new and improved” Karen back. An achievement for Karen was feeling free to be herself during the group sessions, rather than being anxious and afraid to say what she thought. After the piloting, Karen continued to make positive steps, returned to paid employment in the café ad even took on more responsibilities.
Karen would recommend Job Yes to her family members including one of her daughters who is struggling to find work at the moment.
The interview was carried out by the facilitator of the training Stacey Robinson, Merseyside Expanding Horizons.