Site Visit - Fitted for Work
Our second site visit yesterday was to Fitted for Work, where Anne and Jane showed us the space and explained their programs.
FFW helps women experiencing disadvantage to get work and keep it. The most well-known of their programs is the dressing service, in which every woman who comes in is outfitted head to toe with high quality clothing, shoes, hosiery and accessories suitable to professional situations. All the items have been donated – mostly by individual donors, but Anne explained that FFW have recently developed an agreement with Levante and The Heat Group, who provide them with hosiery and cosmetics respectively. Here you see the boutique where each woman is given the attention of two volunteers who help to find the right outfit for her. They are also trained in interview skills, so that they can feel confident and relaxed when in that situation.
Anne and Jane were obviously inspired by the transformations which the service brings about, as women suddenly discover that they can look amazing and find new confidence and self-assurance. Anne told us that their average client is living on about $35 per day; some have only plastic bags to carry their belongings and the new handbag they’re provided with is one of FFW’s most appreciated services!
FFW’s programs have evolved since its original conception as time has gone on and they’ve discovered the changing needs of their clients. Originally the dressing service was the major focus, but FFW now offer a Transition to Work program which is the main focus of their application to Impact100Melbourne. Many of the women taking part in this program are from immigrant backgrounds and have extra needs to help them familiarise with Australian business culture. The program offers life skills training and job readiness. Jane told us that over 120 employers now provide a workplace familiarisation service, which enables women to visit different workplaces, see the kinds of jobs that are available and to understand the different workplace cultures.
This is the “engine room” – a tiny space beneath the boutique where the sorting is done. All the donated clothes are checked for quality and work appropriateness, as well as being sorted and labelled by size – which is apparently a more difficult proposition than you’d think, as there is little consistency in sizing. Anything which is unsuitable for work is either donated on, or sold at FFW’s sales which also provide some income to supplement the core business.
Volunteers are also a big part of the FFW service, and there are a huge number of jobs they can do -everything from sorting, ironing and mending clothes, to lending their business skills and acumen to high level mentoring which helps women who’ve got work through the FFW program both keep their work and get ready to progress further in their careers.
Since its inception FFW has helped over 10,000 women – they’re now at about 4000 per year, and their evolving service means those women are now helped beyond the initial (and still vital) dressing and interview service.
Thanks to Anne and Jane for making us welcome at Fitted for Work!