Islington empowerment charity helps women look and act the part at interviews

17:19 14 October 2016

MP Emily Thornberry (third right) with CEO Kate Stephens (second right), volunteers and a client (middle)

MP Emily Thornberry (third right) with CEO Kate Stephens (second right), volunteers and a client (middle)


Women across the country are being helped into employment by an Islington charity that offers training and wardrobe fittings ahead of job interviews.

The donated clothes available to clientsThe donated clothes available to clients

Smart Works helps a diverse range of women, including the homeless, ex-offenders and those who have had career breaks due to illness, bereavement or motherhood.

CEO Kate Stephens emphasises empowerment as a key aspect of the charity’s work.

“It’s about providing women with interview clothes but much more about the self belief that clothes can give a woman,” she said.

The diversity of clients’ destinations matches that of their backgrounds, with the charity having assisted those going into retail, education, healthcare and law.

Women who use the charity’s services receive a dressing session in the charity’s wardrobe, where brands like Whistles and Hobbs have donated clothes.

Dressing volunteer Claire Davis said it is also important that clients feel special and can enjoy their session.

“Many of the women we help have not had the focus on them and their needs for a very long time,” said Ms Davis.

After the dressing session clients receive one-on-one training to hone their interview skills.

Ann Fossey, chairwoman of PR firm Good Relations and interview volunteer at Smart Works, said increasing the confidence of clients so they can secure a job is key.

“There’s a real emphasis on women helping and empowering women. We help such a wide group of women and finding out someone you’ve helped has gone on to get a job is incredibly rewarding,” said Ms Fossey.

Emily Thornberry MP praised the charity while visiting today, saying it did an excellent job bringing out their clients abilities and self belief.

“It’s not about creating a new woman but allowing a woman to be herself,” said Ms Thornberry.

Over half of Smart Works’ clients get the job they applied for, and the charity brings successful clients in for second dressings to provide them with a wardrobe to see them through the first few weeks of work.

Women wishing to use the Smart Works need to have an interview lined up and be referred through one of the charity’s partners, including Job Centre and other employment agencies.

Smart Works now has offices in five cities but Ms Stephens noted the charity’s strong links to the local area.

“We’re very proud to be an Islington charity. We’re continuing to expand but we’ll always be here,” said Ms Stephens.

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