School of Hard Knocks helps women in Kirkcaldy back to work

Unemployed women in Kirkcaldy are combining rugby with employability skills to help them back to work.
Some of the women playing rugby. Pics: George McLuskie.Some of the women playing rugby. Pics: George McLuskie.
Some of the women playing rugby. Pics: George McLuskie.

The School of Hard Knocks is a social inclusion charity that uses rugby lessons on the pitch alongside classroom-based activities to deliver life and employability skills to unemployed adults.

The school also helps with goal-setting, anger and fear management, CV writing and interview preparation.

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These lessons come together with the ultimate aim of enabling participants to find employment – and to realise their potential.

Rosanna Innes. Pics: George McLuskie.Rosanna Innes. Pics: George McLuskie.
Rosanna Innes. Pics: George McLuskie.

The six-week course is delivered through three distinct phases; the person, the mind and the career.

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Some of the women playing rugby. Pics: George McLuskie.Some of the women playing rugby. Pics: George McLuskie.
Some of the women playing rugby. Pics: George McLuskie.

Collectively, it provides a framework of positive values and behaviours to equip participants for life and the workplace.

The School of Hard Knocks began as an intervention for a group of young men in Liverpool who were unemployed.

They displayed a range of barriers to work, including criminal histories or behaviour, issues managing anger and fear, experiences of homelessness, and histories of addiction.

Calum Gauld. Pics: George McLuskie.Calum Gauld. Pics: George McLuskie.
Calum Gauld. Pics: George McLuskie.

The programme now works with equal numbers of men and women of all ages.

For those who complete the course in Scotland, 56 per cent achieve full time paid employment, 18 per cent go into further education and 88 per cent of participants across the UK report enhanced well being.

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As well as learning rugby skills at Kirkcaldy Rugby Club the women also take part in mock interviews at Sky and will ultimately gain SVQ lvl 4 qualifications in employability and well being.

Rosa Innes, director of programmes for Scotland said: “What we do is help people build up their confidence.

Some of the women playing rugby. Pics: George McLuskie.Some of the women playing rugby. Pics: George McLuskie.
Some of the women playing rugby. Pics: George McLuskie.

“The value system that you use for rugby is exactly the same system that you use in the workplace.

“If we have some fun with people, raise endorphins and get them fitter we find that everyone engages better.

“We build trust on the pitch and then we have more honest conversations in the classroom.

“The criteria for the course is that you have to be over 18 and unemployed, the majority of the people that take part in the course are referred to us from the job centre, addiction support services and homelessness services.

“We help to give people motivation and raise their self-worth, then we find that someone will apply for more jobs – because they have more confidence and they will do better in an interview because they know that they can do it.

“We also do sessions on fears and barriers.

Alana Giles. Pics: George McLuskie.Alana Giles. Pics: George McLuskie.
Alana Giles. Pics: George McLuskie.

“It is about understanding what things make you feel frightened and what can trigger that, and understanding what anxiety is and how to overcome these feelings.

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“All of these sessions help to get someone back into employment, and at the end of the course most people will have reached a positive destination”

Calum Gauld is a senior facilitator with the School of Hard Knocks and organises the adult programmes for the school.

He said: “I set everything up for the course.

“I visit Job Centres and make sure everything is running smoothly in the run up to the course starting.

“My background is in employability and playing rugby is my hobby, so it is ideal for me to combine my previous experience with the sport I love.

“The women on this course have only been here for two weeks, and we can already see the difference in them.

“They are more confident and all of them have big smiles on their faces.”

He admits his job is hugely rewarding, adding: “When you see the changes that some people make after taking part in the programme, it has a real feel good factor.”

Trisha Haughian (32) is taking part in the School of Hard Knocks to build up her confidence and to get back into employment after battling with alcohol addiction.

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She said: “I suffer from anxiety and depression so the course is really helping me with that.

“It was daunting to come here last week with there being so many different people, but after the first day when we all got to know each other it’s been great.

“The course has given me back my confidence and I‘m looking forward to coming here in the mornings. The school helps you to tap into your qualities and skills and to show you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Alana Giles (33) is also taking part in the programme and is hoping to get back to work after being unemployed for two months.

She said: “It was actually a woman at the Job Centre who directed me to the School of Hard Knocks.

“I suffer from anxiety and she said that this programme would be able to help me improve my mental health.

“I would like to improve my self-esteem. I know that I have potential but with the way I have been recently I think my self-esteem is low. I would like to get the old me back – being unemployed has affected my confidence.”