A new look, a fresh start: suits for unemployed men

This Sheffield-based charity helps to prepare unemployed men for job interviews by providing them with a full outfit

This Sheffield-based charity helps to prepare unemployed men for job interviews by providing them with a full outfit

When it comes to job interviews, first impressions count. For men, this usually means wearing a suit and tie, and good suits don’t come cheap.

Like many great ideas, the power of Sheffield-based The Suit Works is in its simplicity. Unemployed men who have a job prospect lined up are directed to the charity and given a suit, shirt, tie and shoes, so they can show up to the interview looking great. As well as giving the men a complete outfit, The Suit Works offers a styling and fitting service. Clients have to be referred, but that’s it. There are no catches, and they get to keep the clothes.

“Quite often, the young guys have never worn smart clothing before,” says founder Vanda Kewley. “They have no idea where to wear their trousers or how to tie a tie. I measure and dress them in front of a mirror, so they can watch the transformation and see themselves in a different light.”

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Kewley trained as an image consultant, before working in administration and finance roles for charities. When she was made redundant, she volunteered with London-based charity Suited and Booted, which helps vulnerable, unemployed and low-income men get jobs by giving them business clothes and interview advice. (Charity Smart Works offers a similar service for women in the UK.) Inspired, Kewley founded The Suit Works in 2016.

She won a £620 startup grant from crowdfunding organisation Sheffield Soup, while a Sheffield-based business, Goodman Sparks, offered to do the dry cleaning. Online retailer Slaters Menswear donated 120 new suits, and local companies also regularly add to Kewley’s stock by asking their employees to donate unwanted clothes.

Kewley set up The Suit Works to help unemployed men after being made redundant herself

Referrals flow in from job centres, training agencies, Sheffield city council, and organisations that work with former soldiers, prisoners and men who are struggling with drugs and alcohol. They range in age from 17 to 55.

Kewley follows up with clients after their interviews and reports around a 60 per cent success rate. “In fact, one ex-soldier just phoned to say he landed his perfect job. It’s so delightful to hear.

“It’s such a simple thing to do, but it has such a profound impact,” says Kewley, smiling. “I’ve reduced a few clients to tears – I’m having to toughen up a bit myself.”

Images: The Sheffield Star

Series: Work in progress

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