Delivering face to face employment training in Covid times

By Ceri Sheppard, Director of Impact at the House of St Barnabas, Soho, London

Imagine a five storey Georgian building containing a private members’ club on the ground and first floors, Employment Academy training rooms scattered across various floors with some only accessible through a bar area (yes that kind of bar), employment programme participants doing work experience shifts throughout the club and offices, and the need to turn a profit within the hospitality business which funds the charity.  Oh yes, and four significant changes in Covid regulations for hospitality in six weeks.

We were already four weeks into our October 2020 six-week employment preparation programme for people affected by homelessness when Lockdown 2.0 started.  Our programme is a mix of classroom-based sessions focussing on personal development and employability, and work experience in our members’ club.  Despite having to close the club for the duration of lockdown, we continued the classroom sessions and offered practical skills sessions in place of the work experience to finish the programme.

We knew all along that running the programme after Lockdown 1.0 with the risk of another lockdown looming would be a challenge, and that it would require a leap of faith from our referral agencies and from people applying to come on the programme.  Meticulous planning, a relentless eye on safety and a belief in the transformative nature of face to face connection took us to the finishing line without a single positive test!  Here’s what we did to stay safe.

Social distancing

General Covid-Safety

Getting creative

What comes next

Was it all worth it?

Absolutely. And we can’t wait to run the next programme in February 2021.