First Choice Homes employment support services

Oldham Business Edge pictures at First Choice Homes (FCHO). PIC shows Lauren Taylor in customer service centre.

Job-seekers and local employers with vacancies to fill can both benefit from employment support services run by First Choice Homes Oldham.
As an anchor institution, First Choice Homes delivers a wide range of economic benefits to the borough.
Employment advisers Sarah Power and Suzie Redpath explain how the team helps local people find sustainable work and local employers to fill vacancies with the right recruits.
Among those benefitting from the support are women, whose career plans, education or ambitions are often sidetracked by family commitments.

Housing organisation First Choice Homes Oldham runs a broad programme of employment services to train and deliver the workforce of the future.

Its special employment services team helps local people find sustainable work and local employers to fill vacancies with suitable, motivated recruits.

First Choice Homes runs employment services for its own tenants but non-tenants can also benefit through volunteer opportunities, which can boost their experience, skills and employment prospects.

It says its training and apprenticeships activities are also setting the standards for other employers across the region to follow.

The employment support team trains people in a variety of skills needed by local businesses. This includes administration, reception, customer service, accounts administration, HGV class I driving, graphic design, cleaning, care work, call centre and language interpreting work.

For employers, First Choice Homes can help by matching its tenant job seekers to vacancies and can also consider arranging tailored training courses for specific business needs.

The employment support team has grown substantially in the past 12 months and currently works with 120 job seekers.

Advisers Sarah Power and Suzie Red path explained more.

Sarah said: “Our work includes arranging regular meetings with job-seekers and employers. We can help with CVs and interviews, training, mindset courses, accredited courses, work placements, security industry badge-work and support for people once they are in work. Employers can contact us to find employees who will have been trained and supported in a range of job skills. One example is Caremark Oldham, which has worked with First Choice Homes to recruit care and support workers in various locations around the area.”

In another example nine people recently completed a Security Industry Authority (SIA) training course, which gives them the industry qualification and badge. Participants attended SIA training sessions at Job Centres then sat an exam at University Campus Oldham.

The funded training course (participants did not have to pay) was found by Job Skill, an SME technology business at Oldham’s new Digital Hub. It has been chosen for accelerator support by Wayra UK, which is part of 02/Telefonica group and also has northern base at the hub.

Explaining more about job-seekers, Suzie said: “We work with housing customers who face a variety of issues, from skills or work experience to anxiety, a lack of confidence or health problems. So we have to address these issues as well as identifying the type of work they need.

“Sustaining a job is a key consideration. Our work is about finding people suitable, sustainable employment rather than just any job that arises.”

Suzie, from Failsworth, joined First Choice Homes in December 2016. She had previously worked for employment organisations including Pinnacle People and Remploy.

She said: “Our employment services have grown massively over the past 12 months. Sarah has been really successful in getting people into work and we’ve recruited more staff in this service.”

“We currently have 120 customers on the programme who all want employment. Some have not worked for years while others have been out of work for just a few months. They choose to join the programme. It is not mandatory. So their motivation gives employers confidence straight away.

“We boost their skills, mindset and work experience, and help with CVs, interviews and ongoing support once they have found a job, usually for six months.

“If someone is struggling once they are in work, we can visit them more often. If it turns out that the job is unsuited to them, we will talk to the employer and arrange something else. We also recognise their achievements, which all helps to build confidence and sustain their employment, which benefits the employer too.

“We can also offer workplace trials, allowing people to ‘try before they buy’.

“Employers also use us for their recruitment needs to fill vacancies. Employers have the freedom to go to other recruitment organisations but they have been impressed with our services. We have strong relationships with employers, we visit their workplaces and they visit us.”

Undertaking voluntary activities for First Choice Homes or for other organisations can provide job seekers with valuable experience and skills, which can in turn lead to more vocationally focused work placements.

Other First Choice Homes employment support advisers include Gemma Chauhan from Heywood, who also previously worked with Remploy; Leah Thomas from Uppermill, Julie Goveham, who focuses on accredited training; and Naomi Martin-Smith. who specialises in work placements and volunteering. The volunteer and employment services department is managed by Michelle Tomlin.


Casey Mott (27) from Chadderton became employed as a corporate receptionist for First Choice Homes earlier this year.

In the past, the mother-of-two’s family commitments had prevented her from going to higher education or taking full-time jobs. Instead she worked in retail and studied part time courses at the Lifelong Learning Centre at Oldham Library, including a BTEC in health and social care.

Casey became aware of First Choice Homes’ employment support programme through conversations with a neighbourhood-housing officer. She then contacted Sarah Power to find out more.

She said: “I wanted a job that would fit around my family commitments and school hours. I felt I was too old for an apprenticeship but wanted a job that offered good prospects and training.

“On a personal level, I wanted to work and have a career, and not be defined simply as being a mum. There is more to me than just being a mum.

“Sarah helped me update my CV, I went on a customer service course and we looked at job vacancies together. Sarah really helped me.

“Then this receptionist vacancy arose, which has working hours of 10am to 2pm, which is perfect for me.
“Sarah also helped me get the right type of formal clothes for job interviews, using the Smart Works dress hire organisation. That must have helped me too – because I got the job!”

Casey has since recommended First Choice Homes’ employment services to other people.
Lauren Taylor, (28) from Holts, Oldham, attended South Chadderton School and then studied a police course at Oldham College.

However she has type-1 diabetes, which prevented her developing a police career. She then worked in the hospitality; call centre and bar sectors but wanted a different career.

Lauren learned about First Choice employment support services through the Job Centre network.
She came to First Choice Homes in the spring of 2017. She had a work placement in the customer service centre and then secured a job there.

She now works four days’ a week and has a five-year-old daughter who started school this autumn.
She said: “The work placement and support I received has really helped. It really improved my confidence.
“I was quite shy before and had not had a full-time job since having my daughter. I wanted to wait until she started school before getting a job with more hours.

“Job Centre staff told me about work placements and volunteering with First Choice Homes. They put me in touch with Suzie Redpath and Naomi Martin-Smith who helped me look for a job.

“I spent my placement on reception, call centre, website payment and requests roles. It included dealing with customers face-to-face to helping them over the telephone and online.

“I particularly enjoyed the service centre work, which is mainly dealing with incoming enquiries, and the environment.
“I’ve now recommended the employment support services to my friends.

Asked about the benefits of the service, she said: “For me, I wanted to pick up good customer service skills and good office experience. I had done OK at school with qualifications and my IT skills were always pretty good. However I’ve picked-up some more IT skills here, which is another benefit.

“I now want to stay at First Choice Homes and build a career.”

Share this post

Share this post

Latest posts