Wednesday 29 November 2006 

Owzat For A New Career In Sport?

A group of 15 unemployed Birmingham women are playing to win after being given a unique opportunity to clinch jobs as sports coaches.

And as Ashes fever gripped cricket fans in England and Australia, the group spent a week learning to bat, bowl and catch in the nets at Warwickshire County Cricket Club’s indoor academy.

The women, from areas including Aston, Lozells, Handsworth, Saltley, Bartley Green, Wyrley Birch, Newtown, Aston and Hockley, were selected from more than 40 applicants for the six-month coaching project.

The Women-only Mini-BICCS (Birmingham Inner-City Sports Coaching Programme) has been developed through a partnership between Pertemps Employment Alliance, Sports Pathways and Sports Zone.

Further support has come from Sporting Equals and Agender - a European Social Fund programme of the EQUAL project which is managed by the Learning and Skills Council in Birmingham. Agender aims to break down gender barriers and promote non-traditional gender roles in employment.

The unique course aims to provide the women with high quality accredited training in sports and fitness coaching, as well as work experience. They will be aiming to achieve the Community Sports Development Award and other coaching qualifications.

Many of the group are lone parents who have been unemployed for several years. They applied for the course after being referred to Pertemps Employment Alliance which runs a variety of Government-funded Welfare to Work initiatives including Employment Zone and New Deal.

Co-ordinator Vernice Jeffers, of Pertemps Employment Alliance, said: “They’re a fantastic group, really enthusiastic and competitive, and always helpful and supportive of each other.

“Agender seeks to promote non-traditional gender roles in employment and therefore the programme focuses on non-traditional sports for women, including football, rugby, cricket, basketball, gym and fitness instruction, and qualifying them to coach these sports professionally.

“It’s a part-time course and, as many of the group are lone parents, it will run in school hours so that they can participate fully. We’re also paying them, and providing support with travel and childcare costs.”

She added: “Sports coaching in a paid capacity is a profession traditionally dominated by men. There is currently a significant demand for female sports coaches, and the lack of female swimming coaches is a key issue. In culturally diverse areas such as Birmingham there is a particular problem as many women are excluded from sports activity for cultural reasons, unless it is women-only.

“This course will make the women highly employable longer-term because there is such a demand for female coaches. We hope to run many more similar courses in the future.”

PEA, which has 11 centres in Birmingham and Solihull, has become one of the UK’s leading providers of Government-funded Welfare to Work initiatives since it was established by Pertemps Group chairman Tim Watts and PEA chief executive Colin Birchall in 1998.

The company is part of Pertemps People Development Group, with employment and training projects nationwide. Since incorporation, more than 50,000 long-term unemployed and marginalised job seekers are now working again thanks to the intervention and fresh approach taken by Pertemps in providing solutions to the issue of long-term unemployment.
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