A South Cumbria training business is playing its part to help people facing multiple and complex barriers to move towards employment.

Skills Shop Limited has been running courses for participants in The Building Better Opportunities Getting Cumbria to Work (BBO GCtW) project, which supports people in the Barrow and South Lakes area aged 18 and above, who are either unemployed or economically inactive.

The Barrow-based company ran a face-to-face Emergency First Aid at Work courseprior to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown for participants in the project.

It has set up and is delivering a special online Conflict Management course so that BBO GCtW participants do not lose out during the lockdown on gaining skills which can improve their employability.

And it has been commissioned to deliver Health and Safety in the Workplace and First Aid for Mental Health courses, plus a bespoke course in positive thinking.

"The Emergency First Aid at Work coursegave those taking part the critical skills and confidence to immediately deal with an emergency, such as helping an unconscious casualty or someone who was choking," said Phil Newton, Managing Director of Skills Shop.

He explained why completing the course could help make someone more employable. "If you had two candidates going for an interview and they looked identical on paper, the one with a first aid qualification would be more likely to get the job as the employer would also be gaining a qualified first aider for free."

Twelve participants took the course and all passed.

"The Conflict Management course teaches participants how to become more assertive and empathise with others," said Mr Newton.

"If someone understands how the brain perceives the world and how others react to their surroundings, they are more likely to find a resolution. The course focuses a lot on understanding people's beliefs and behaviours and the importance of communication. It included VAK analysis, which is all about eye movement. It is possible to tell which part of the brain someone is accessing by watching the way their eyes are moving.

"The course helps people build relationships quicker because it teaches them about empathy. By empathising more with others people are more likely to remain calm during a discussion and look at things in a balanced manner."

Mr Newton explained why he liked to do work with the third sector and projects such as BBO GCtW. "One of our core values is to give back to local communities. We do this in various ways, for example, by providing first aid workshops for pupils at schools and self-defence workshops for charities helping women who have suffered from physical and mental abuse.

"For me it is about the satisfaction of being able to help others simply because it is the right thing to do."

The Building Better Opportunities Getting Cumbria to Work project aims to support and work with individuals who are furthest removed from the labour market.

It helps them to move towards and into employment by supporting them to play a greater, more productive role in their communities, demonstrate increased skills and confidence and be much more likely to consider employment or volunteering as a viable prospect.

It is funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund and is run by Cumbria Council for Voluntary Service (CCVS) in partnership with five charitable organisations – The Well at Barrow, Imagine Independence, Right2Work, Barrow Women's Community Matters and Cumbria Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service (CADAS).

Current participants include mums looking after pre-school children or people caring for loved-ones, people with physical and learning disabilities or mental health conditions and people who have a history of offending, often because of drug taking, who are now rehabilitated but struggling to find work. The project is also working with some of the refugees from Syria in Barrow.

Natalia Wealleans-Turner, project manager of BBO GCtW, said: "We work with the business sector and use its skills and experience to support our participants to develop personally and to increase their employability skills.

"We use Skills Shop because they know this area and have an excellent understanding of the voluntary sector and our training needs.

"Phil Newton and his team are fully aware of issues such as safeguarding and are experienced at communicating and engaging with people who have varying levels of education and health and wellbeing need."

She said the Emergency First Aid at Work course had been particularly valuable as it gave participants a skill and qualification that was in great demand by employers across a range of sectors, including food and drink, hospitality, health and social care.

The Conflict Management course had enhanced participants' communication skills and their ability to problem solve, especially in circumstances they might come across in a workplace environment.

"Phil and his team designed the Conflict Management course for us so that participants can log in and work at their own pace. That was perfect at this time because many participants are managing multiple stresses, such as home-schooling children, caring duties and increased levels of anxiety."

Any businesses which want to become involved delivering services to BBO GCtW participants can get in touch via email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the BBO GCtW websitewww.gettingcumbriatowork.org.uk or to ring Paula Johnson on 07776 593795.

Anyone who feels they might benefit from one of Skills Shop's courses can contact Skills Shop Ltd on 01229 813989 or visit its website www.skillsshop.co.uk