• Lucy Markillie
Smart Works set up shop in Manchester City Centre

Recently, Smart Works opened a pop-up shop in Manchester City Centre’s Town Hall and invited a host of local women to show what they do and what they can offer.

Situated in Stockport, Smart Works aim to dress and coach unemployed women for interview success - they aim to dress and coach over 350 women from all walks of life by the end of 2019! The clients start the process by meeting with volunteer dressers, who help them pick out a smart outfit that suits them, makes them feel confident, and is appropriate for interview. This high-quality interview outfit is then the client’s to keep. The client then spends an hour with a skilled interview coach in a one-to-one bespoke supportive session. Should they be successful in their interview, clients are invited to return to receive a capsule wardrobe, suitable for their new job.

Smart Works are proud to say that they are a sustainable company- all clothing is donated and re-used, ensuring they “always use fashion as a force for good”. Smart Works is also completely volunteer-led, with currently over 40 volunteers who have given over 2,500 hours of their time to help the scheme. In January 2019, Smart Works was honoured to announce HRH The Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle as their patron. The Duchess’s decision to support Smart Works highlights her passion for supporting women, and her commitment will help women in need all across the UK. On average, 69% of Smart Works clients go on to get the job within a month of their first visit- with this rising to 83% during August and September 2019.

Joanne Roney OBE, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council, opened the event with a speech praising the concept of Smart Works and the impact it will have on Manchester: “I’m so proud of this, because our Manchester is about all of us, working together, to think about what we can do, to build on the strengths of the people of this city. This is a very simple, genuine gesture that plays right to the heart of our Manchester.”

After Joanne spoke, Jan Iceton, the Chair of Smart Works Greater Manchester, gave some comments about why Smart Works is so important, why she chairs it, and why she’s so excited about the new Manchester location: “Smart Works is so important because it’s a “hand held” support of disadvantaged and often vulnerable women in our community as they seek paid employment. Our service, with supplying interview-appropriate clothing and 1-2-1 interview coaching, is completely free to our clients and when they leave us they are more than ready to get the job!”

“I chair Smart Works because when I retired early I wanted to find a vocation that I could really identify with and an organisation that I could add value to in the city I’ve called home since coming here as a student. I love Manchester and to think I could help support over 400 women a year get work across our Greater Manchester region was simply a compelling “call to action” for me personally. And as a woman, I know how much better we feel when we look great, how much of a final boost that gives us all when we’re going out there into the workplace.”

“I’m excited to utilise this Manchester location because Manchester is at the heart of our region and a presence here is essential. We have a great service deliver space in Stockport and 2,000 square feet of space is hard to come by at an affordable cost for a charity such as Smart Works. So we need to up parts of our service to our key referral partners such as the local Job Centre Plus teams, the Growth Company, Ingeus, We Mind the Gap, The Princes Trust and many others.”

Smart Works will be available every Wednesday for the next 2 months in the Manchester City Centre Town Hall Extension, and also at their full-time premises in Stockport. For more information about Smart Works, you can visit smartworks.org.uk. To see Joanne Roney OBE’s full speech, you can follow the link below.