Twenty years of helping people back to workBy Jon Nurse
December 13, 2012
Twenty years ago the Prince and Princess of Wales announced their separation and Whitney Houston topped the Christmas charts with I Will Always Love You.
In Wokingham, MP John Redwood and the then town mayor Councillor Bob Wyatt met at the Ritz Cinema in Easthampstead Road to open Wokingham Job Support Centre (WJSC).
Last Friday the pair reunited at its 20th anniversary and reporter Jon Nurse joined the party to discover more about the centre’s work.
Taking pride of place at the Wokingham Job Support Centre offices is a photo taken at the Ritz Cinema in December 1992.
Familiar figures, a little less grey than today, are beaming as they open the job support centre.
Unlike its former venue, the charity has gone from strength to strength helping close to 8,000 people back to work.
This year WJSC has worked with nearly 300 clients, including Mark Forrester of Rances Lane.
Mr Forrester, 47, was made redundant in 2010 after 26 years working for Yellow Pages.
“I really struggled knowing what I wanted to do next,” he said.
“You can spend so much time putting entries into a search engine, but unless you know what you want you can’t see the wood for the trees.”
The former project manager started coming to WJSC in February, taking courses to help him re-enter the job market.
“The unique selling point is you can drop in five days a week,” Mr Forrester added.
“You’re not stuck at home staring at a PC screen. It gave structure to my week.
“I saw their advisers about my CV and used tools where I put in my skills and what I enjoy and it helped with suggestions.”
In March he started volunteering for Ravenswood in Crowthorne, part of the charity Norwood which supports children, families and people with learning disabilities, which lead to a job in October.
“It’s very fulfilling,” he said. “Without WJSC’s support I’d still be deciding what to do. They gave me confidence.”
The free service is manned by 15 advisers, who were the subject of unrelenting praise at the 20th anniversary celebration.
Former chairman Harry Row said: “It’s a pleasure to think the small start has proved so worthy.
“A lot of people come looking glum but that soon changes – it’s such a friendly place. People can relax here.”
Now well established at The Cornerstone in Norreys Avenue, WJSC offers confidential advice, job application assistance, job search resources and workshops helping with CVs, interview techniques and specialist sessions for senior clients from 10am to 2pm, Monday to Friday.
Chairman Iain Brown said: “We still have the same principles as 20 years ago but have moved on with new techniques.
“Our turnover is £35,000 but the value we give is closer to £400,000.
“It’s a tremendous example of how the Big Society could work.”
Wokingham MP John Redwood added: “I’d like to say a big thank you to the organisers and volunteers.
“It’s helped keep unemployment low in Wokingham which is extremely good news through the crisis in the economy over the last five years.”
The centre is open to people aged over 19 years old living in Wokingham borough or Bracknell Forest.
Wokingham borough mayor Councillor Bob Wyatt said: “It takes away the horror of unemployment and feeling alone.
“I remember coming to see them for the opening and was very impressed with what they were doing and today they continue to do a very good job for people.”
For more information visit www.wjscadvisors.org.uk