Wednesday, 22 May 2013

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Peter Porteous

PETER Porteous is originally from Dorset but has become a familiar face in Axminster through his involvement with Axminster Job Club. A few years ago, Peter and his wife Prue came here from North Somerset with some of their family. He enjoys country activities and a fine Otter Ale with friends. 

TELL us a bit about yourself.
I  was one of five children and brought up on a smallholding in Dorset. I went to school near Reading where anyone from the West Country was called ‘farmer’. This particular ‘farmer’ joined the Royal Navy, serving in coastal fishery protection vessels and in frigates, transferring to the RN Reserve, as a Minesweeper ‘Jim’ and a patrol craft skipper teaching coastal navigation out of Bristol. I was an HR Manager in BAE Space Division, Filton, and then set up my own technical recruitment and training business.  In 2003 I was called back to Service, took the moths out of my uniform and worked on defence matters relating to people and equipment across the three Services.

HOW did you get into running Axminster Job Club?
In 2009 there was a notice on a pew in our church about Axminster Churches Together wanting to start a job club. It was looking for volunteers so I went along to see what was going on and found myself with the job of job club officer. Although it means getting involved with virtually everything with the club, we are all volunteers operating under our chairman, Liz Lynn, who should take the credit for starting this. 

WHAT made you interested?
When I was at BAE, if work dried up after a satellite was completed for launch, then staff were laid off. It was crazy really but that is what happened, so we put together a job-search training package to help them find work until we took them on again. The Axminster Job Club operates with that package but brought up to date. Also, I knew what losing your job was like because I had previously been made redundant from Plessey in Poole when our children were very young.  

WHAT experience can you bring?
It is about communicating with people and to understand their hopes and fears which we all share. It has also been very encouraging to see some of our visitors themselves volunteering their own services to help others. That is what does it for me. Talking of the volunteers generally, it is really amazing what skill and resourcefulness there is in Axminster, ordinary people we see in the street have something precious to offer.  

WHAT does the job club offer people?
It has become an essential drop-in point if you are looking for work. It offers general ‘soft skill’ support in CV writing, getting going in the market and interviews and there is also the ‘internet-cafĂ©’ part of it. The Axminster Carpets redundancies really made us focus on our core business and we became a networking centre for various training agencies and the Government Job Centre. The Job Club is currently working alongside providers of training in English, Maths, IT and is networked with other organisations as well such as ARC and CAB.

TELL us about the job fair on May 30th.
The idea has been in the back of people’s minds and it was just going to happen when the town council offered the Guildhall for free. Backing has come in a big way from ‘Pulman’s View From Axminster’. The Job Centre in Honiton is dedicating a lot of time bringing in as many employers as they can. At the moment all is going according to plan. It will be a great all-day event and we hope to have job-related things happening such as training course ‘tasters’, a CV clinic and employer-led sessions which we will publicise in the press when we know more.

WHAT do you enjoy most about the job club?
It’s the people we meet and helping them to help themselves. At some level, people tend to know what they want but sometimes need assistance in getting there. It is about keeping people on the ‘front foot’, introducing a degree of realism and offering practical support. 
As volunteers we don’t have all the answers but it can be very rewarding getting someone through a tough situation like job loss.

If £500 could be spent on the local area, what would you like to see improved?
I would give it to a voluntary organisation in Axminster that offers adventurous training for young people. What we need are imaginative volunteer organisations to set up and run active youth groups in the town. The local youth centre is run by the county council and minimally funded. Such organisations are inherently ‘risk-adverse’ in organising much more than kick-about football. Charitable trusts exist out there which offer young people the opportunity to go away for a week and do something challenging like sailing or climbing at minimal cost. A viable model would be for voluntary youth organisations to be assisted by the relevant local authority with the offer of conducting risk assessments on proposed adventurous training plans. But no direct funding please.

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