A NORTH Belfast project is helping people across the city overcome their barriers to secure employment.

Based at the Ashton Centre, the Belfast Works LEMIS+ Project seeks to target those without training and education, working collectively to deliver employment opportunities.

One such beneficiary, Nelia Goncalves, moved to Belfast from Portugal in 2014 and got involved in the project to help secure a job.

“I lost my job as an airport security guard in Lisbon and couldn’t find any other jobs that didn’t feel like I was taking a step backwards,” she explained.

“I like to keep moving forwards so I came to Belfast, where I had a friend, to find a job. At first, it was very hard. Interviews here are not like in Portugal, where they just ask you what jobs you’ve worked before. I was very much out of my comfort zone and this made me very nervous.

“I saw Paul, a mentor from the LEMIS+ Project, one day when I was signing on. He asked me to sign up for the project and I jumped at the chance for some support with my interview skills.”

Nelia went on to successfully interview and secure a job in Asda before going on to apply for an internship at a gym. She then moved from her internship to employment as a gym instructor and got great feedback from clients, but she had always wanted to work for herself and started thinking about self-employment.

“I eventually decided to start my own business doing online fitness coaching and home visits for my clients. It works really well for people who have children or who are busy and their schedules don’t allow for a regular appointment with an instructor.

“I feel like I’m equipped to help people now because I’ve started to understand how to help myself. I would say to people who are struggling without jobs to ask for help. Go to somewhere like LEMIS+ and make a plan. It’s all tailored to you and what you need, unlike some of the other programmes which don’t ask you why you’re struggling, they just move you on to the next stage if you’ve failed. LEMIS+ helped me to prepare for interviews and all of a sudden I was able to get jobs after months of failing.

“There are so many benefits to having a job – the main one is interacting with different people. Before working I was always interacting with the same people, or not on any meaningful level, and now I’m meeting new people, making money and freedom for myself.

“Lots of people think that, especially when they have kids, that they couldn’t cope with a job because they are so tired and have so much to do already that they would be overwhelmed with work on top of it all. But really I would say to them you will not be more tired or overwhelmed as meeting other people gives you energy and you feel better. When you work you have time for yourself, you get new dreams, new ideas and new goals. You are building yourself.

“The LEMIS+ Project helped me prepare for interviews and to change my mind set. I no longer think that the people on top are better or smarter than me, or just had more opportunities. Everyone has the same 24 hours in the day – it’s how you use them that counts.”

The LEMIS+ Project is available to people who aren’t working and operates out of centres across Belfast, including the Ashton Centre in the north of the city. More information can be found at www.lemisplus.eu or by contacting 9074 2255.