How disadvantaged women can overcome employment barriers

Image source: pexels-Ksenia Cherna

SUPPOSE you are a woman looking for a job, been in and out of the workforce, passionate about clothing, committed to sustainability and looking for a career in retail with no experience.

How do you crack an opportunity to achieve your desire?

Fitted for Work, an independent not-for-profit organisation that champions and changes women’s working lives, is here to help.

They are launching RED, a new Retail Experience Development program designed to assist women experiencing employment barriers.

General Manager Amanda Carlile said the impetus for the new program came from their social enterprise retail outlet Conscious Closet which has sold pre-loved clothing and accessories online for 12 years.

“We wanted to be able to offer work experience placements for women under 25 as the first step in a retail career,” Ms Carlile said.

“Retail is a great career even if you have minimal experience or education because you can start at the grassroots level.”

Fitted for Work has partnered with ELK, an ethical fashion label and leading fashion chain Taking Shape, for the program.

RED kicks off with Reimagine Retail Webinar, a one-hour online event on Thursday, 26 August commencing at 12pm, where experts from ELK and Taking Shape will discuss the future of retail in a facilitated panel presentation.

“They will share their expertise and provide in-store retail experience opportunities to participants,” Ms Carlile said.

ELK’s people and culture manager, Katrina Bakht, said she looks for three attributes when hiring retail staff.

“Firstly, the ability to go above and beyond in customer service is paramount,” Ms Bakht said.

“Secondly, being able to work as part of a collaborative, cohesive team environment is essential to our entire business.

“I see the collaborative attitude as inherent; there needs to be an absence of ego.

“[The candidate] does not necessarily need to demonstrate that skill; it’s the ability to respect and appreciate each other’s differences and support the whole team that is important.

“But what sets a candidate apart is a passion for sustainability; this helps us engage with our customers and communicate more about our product.”

Ms Bakht said ELK had supported many people who stepped into the business unskilled and with a significant [employment] gap in their work-life who still work with the team because their values align with the company.

RED offers participants the ability to acquire the essential retail norms that will land that first job.

The four-week work experience and learning placement program is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10.00am to 3.30pm in and around the Richmond area.

Across the eight days, a range of topics, from designing a digital marketing project, merchandising and sales workshops, and work experience on the sales floor and warehouse, will be covered.

Also included are developing social media skills, producing a tailored retail resume and a LinkedIn profile, plus interview practice and outfitting.

Head of people and culture at Taking Shape, Louisa Trombin, said their partnership with Fitted for Work goes back to 2009.

“We’re proud to be involved with their innovative programs that address barriers to employment and support women to gain experience and confidence through employment,” Ms Trombin said.

“We want to open the doors to show the front line and the back office of the business.”

“Retail is not just working with customers in-store; there are so many roles and skills that complement our retail functions.

“We want to help open the participant’s eyes in a practical sense through work experience which will complement the theoretical skills that Fitted for Work are providing.”

Women will leave the program supported by a mentor, and via their work placement experience, they will be equipped and confident to apply for retail roles.

Fitted for Work believes that when a woman is fitted for work, she is fitted for life.

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Carol Saffer

Carol Saffer is an award-winning journalist enthusiastic about creating copy that engages audiences. She is curious by nature, possesses a growth mindset and thrives on new and unusual challenges. Carol has experience as a reporter for various regional Victorian newspapers and writing for Business Day in The Age. Her previous career was in the fashion industry, and she holds post-graduate degrees in business and journalism.

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