Reading charity Smart Works received a visit from Reading East MP Matt Rodda recently. During Matt’s visit, he was told about the charity, which dresses and coaches women for job interviews. Charity Co-Founder and Chair Sarah Burns showed Matt around their offices in London Street, Reading, which houses a discreet consultation room, changing facilities and extensive wardrobe for clients to choose from.

Sarah’s own inspiration came about in 2012 when she became a volunteer for Dress for Success and then Smart Works UK. Having seen first-hand the positive impact the charities brought to the lives of the women they worked with, she decided to embark on founding one in her local area. The charity was founded in 2015 and receives referrals from over 70 charities and associated agencies from Reading and around the Thames Valley area.

Clients are women from a variety of backgrounds who are seeking to enter the job market after a prolonged absence or having been through difficult circumstances. Following the receipt of a confirmed job interview and upon their referral to Smart Works, the client undergoes a tailored interview coaching session and is provided with a smart, good quality interview outfit which includes shoes and a handbag. Upon securing their job, the client is then given a follow-up appointment where they can avail themselves of a complete ‘capsule wardrobe’ of business attire. All of this is completely free of charge; the clothing is for the client to keep with no cost implication whatsoever.

Businesses such as PwC, Verizon, Oracle and Microsoft are amongst those who regularly donate business attire to the charity, in addition to High Street retailers Hobbs, Evans, M&S and Primark to name but a few.

In June of this year, Smart Works were winners for the social care, advice and support category at the Charity Awards 2017, and the Reading branch have just helped their 200th woman back into work.

Of his visit to Smart Works’ Reading offices, Matt Rodda said:

I think this is a wonderful initiative which provides much needed support and assistance to help women back into the workplace. Whether out of the job market for a long time due to raising a family, or through other personal circumstances, help and support for the women of Reading and the Thames Valley such as this service provided by Smart Works in Reading is a step in the right direction to help women get a footing back on the job ladder and back into work.”

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