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By Evie Barrie

At 50 and with a long career break to overcome, I was signposted to “Making Work Work” by Skills Development Scotland. I felt there were challenges for me in the application process and had some concerns about how I would engage with the course. This apprehension of mine prompted an email, that frankly nobody should ever write let alone send.

I explained how the timing of the application interview affected me, that I was tired of fighting against the status quo of employers lacking the understanding that some of us are better able to work outwith the standard office hours and indeed traditional work locations. It was quite the rant, my long-held frustrations with the barriers facing me for returning to work spilling out onto the page.  

I fully expected the response to be a polite “no thanks” to my application.

Instead, I received a full, kind and proactive response, that showed a clear and empathic understanding of my situation. They had a compassionate and flexible approach I had never come across before in a work situation, including the offer to reschedule the appointment to be more suitable for me.

This experience set the tone for the entire course. 

The women who created and run it, are not only incredibly talented and competent, they have a true understanding of the range of challenges that women returners face, having experienced such themselves. That it’s not only mothers of young children, but also those with caring responsibilities, health issues, and a whole host of other reasons as barriers to re-entering the working world. 

The course itself is fully comprehensive encompassing not only six weeks of twice weekly video sessions but access to online education, masterclasses, a mentoring programme, and the access and support to build a network of contacts.

What ultimately makes this group and course unique though, is not simply the high quality and full content, but that the course leaders actively use their own experiences to honestly and openly inform their work. In a way that makes participants feel they and their various situations are not only understood and empathised with but valued. Not only are our conventional work skills and abilities recognised and appreciated, but so are our life experiences and accomplishments from outwith work. 



This is a foundation on which our path to work is built – but a linear route is not expected or demanded. Failure is not a disaster for which we are blamed, but acknowledged as part of our learning, not only of skills, but of where our passions and purpose lie.  Participants may start the course thinking they are limited to only working within a certain role or industry, perhaps in roles traditionally defined as ‘appropriate’ to women returners, often regardless of their actual qualifications and experience. 

“Making Work Work” motivated us to follow our ambitions, to investigate all possibilities and even suggested ideas we were unaware of, thought were closed to us or presented a different angle for us to work within. 

They also encouraged us to not only consider our own needs, but provide support to others, via peer support naturally but also with insight into working within or adjacent to the third sector, thus providing us with the opportunities to not only find alternative employment avenues, but to access work that is meaningful, challenging and rewarding in what we can give back to the community in general and to causes and organisations we are personally supportive of. 

This all contributed to supporting us in increasing our confidence as workers and as women. 

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