The first time we met Fatima, she talked about her frustration in everyday life. She said ‘I feel really bored and I feel really down that I’m not doing anything with my life. Because I’m pretty young and the time’s just going and it’s moving fast.’ A lot of Fatima’s friends don’t work either. Even with worries about her dad, Fatima was determined to find a job.
In the last couple of years, Fatima has volunteered in a local Islamic Relief charity shop. She found out about the placement there because a cousin used to work there. She worked there for over a year, but had to stop when she went back to Pakistan in 2016. Apart from this volunteer work, she has never had a job. Fatima thinks that her education is holding her back. She attended school in Pakistan, but didn’t complete her secondary education. She attended on and off, but eventually stopped going because the school was too far from her village.
Throughout our interviews with Fatima, she needed support with her English. Volunteers and staff from Crossover helped in the interviews. They were part of the conversations, and translated as part of our conversations with Fatima.
Fatima does not speak English confidently, and this has made it hard for her to get into work. Fatima talked about how this has had an impact on her: ‘It’s about education. If you have no education it’s hard to find a job. The problem is my English speaking and writing as well. I did get two interviews, but I was told I lack writing skills.’
Fatima took up a voluntary position at a charity shop to try and improve her prospects. As she said, ‘it was very difficult for me. I didn’t have the confidence at all. I couldn’t even approach people or even talk to them, communicate with them. I used to get really scared and nervous. After three months I started settling in, then getting used to talking to customers and communicating with them.’
Fatima also thinks that a lack of working experience is holding her back - she had two job applications rejected by employers for this reason. Apart from similar small pieces of feedback, she hasn’t been receiving any feedback when she gives her CV to people. She even went to ‘the major supermarkets, such as Morrisons, Asda and places like that, even to start off voluntary to gain experience, but had no luck.’
Fatima started attending Crossover in March 2016. Crossover is an Online Centre located in Birmingham, in the inner-city area of Bordesley Green. Crossover is part of St Paul’s church, but the centre has a very broad, multicultural, outreach programme. They provide ESOL, and social inclusion programmes for ethnic minority groups, run job-clubs, employment support, and computer classes. They also offer advice and guidance, and support to individuals in poverty, and provide volunteering and work programmes for their users.
Fatima was told about Crossover by a friend. She first started going to the centre to get help with job applications. As she says, Crossover ‘help me to fill in the application form and applying for jobs on the computer.’ This support is crucial; as she says: ‘I can find the job, but I don’t know how to apply for the job.’
Fatima has a computer and a laptop at home which she sometimes uses, and a smartphone, which she uses at home with WiFi, but she doesn’t use mobile data. She searches for jobs using her smartphone, but often, she doesn’t know how to apply to them.
A volunteer at Crossover talked about how Fatima gets confused when she’s applying for jobs: ‘She doesn’t know how to do the search engine, basically. How to type in, how to get there on the actual sites and how to register. It’s these little things that she gets confused about’. She goes on to talk about how Fatima has found quite a lot of help through Crossover: ‘how to apply for jobs, how to use email. We made her a new CV, helped her to update her CV and sent it to her email. She’s learning how to do these things herself’.
By practising at Crossover, Fatima began to feel that she was improving her computer skills. She feels like she’s become quite efficient in her job searching. She says
‘before I used to only tap in my postcode and the job that I am looking for where it says ‘job description’ but there used to be jobs that used to be far and wide but now I’ve realised how to narrow the search down. At first felt like extremely like I couldn’t do it, but now it’s like I’ve reached where I’m not that intimidated by it. I’m getting used to the idea’.
When Fatima had been using the internet for a few weeks, she was using Google and watching funny shows on YouTube. She didn’t know how to do online shopping, Skype or Facebook, but she wanted to know about them. She had seed her brother using them, and liked the idea of learning herself: ‘I think once you get to know how to do it, I think it would be easy because you would have every choice. It’s just that I don’t know how to do it’.
In our first interview with Fatima, she described an average day to us. She is often the first to wake in her house. She feeds her dad, cleans the house, and then takes her CVs to shops in her area. Often, she goes to her friend’s house. Her friend was highly educated in Pakistan; she has good English, and she helps her to fill in forms. This is really helpful for Fatima, but her friend doesn’t know about computers, and can’t help her to access job-search and online applications.