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Dressing for success at Christchurch Women’s Prison

11 November 2020

The first five women from Christchurch Women’s Prison (CWP) have participated and graduated in a course aimed to give them the knowledge and confidence to gain employment and independence.

Through the 10-day, 10-week Dress for Success course, participants learned skills for interviews covering how to apply for jobs, identifying your transferable skills, CV cover letter writing and how to confidently conduct an interview; and practical life skills around communication styles, listening skills, personal presentation, etiquette and styling.

“The course was a huge success with the women,” says Interventions Coordinator Carrie Martin. “We give our women essential education and qualifications for their future lives and this course complements these by helping participants develop the confidence to open the door to employment and get the opportunity to use these skills in the real world. This is important so women leaving prison can potentially earn a living and maintain a prosocial life for themselves and their whānau.”

The course was held on Sundays and facilitated by five members of the Christchurch Dress for Success not for profit organisation. Dress for Success Christchurch aims to empower women in need within the community to achieve economic independence and shape their own financial futures. The group offers guidance, support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

Feedback from the women was hugely positive, with participants saying how much the course benefited them, including:

“This course has been extremely valuable for me, I have learnt so much and I’m a lot more confident in myself and how to present myself in conversation in an interview/formal setting & CV.”

“This course has been very beneficial for me, it’s opened me up to new ideas for the workforce. I worked in the hospitality industry before coming here but when I get out, I’d like to pursue a career in farming and I will definitely engage with Dress for Success. I’m currently attending education classes, doing a correspondence course, I work in grounds and I’m attending the kowhiritanga programme.”

“I’ve learnt how to make an awesome CV and cover letter, how to understand a job advert and how to make my CV and cover letter relevant to the job. I’ve also learnt how to link transferable skills. The facilitators were really awesome and so knowledgeable.”

The Dress for Success team was impressed with the commitment of the women attending, noting how they were engaged from the start and actively participated and shared. The journey over 10 weeks was filled with fun, challenge and genuine encouragement for each other with mutual respect and a sense of shared vision. The Dress for Success team loved being part of the programme and look forward to connecting with the women when they are in the community.

Carrie says the programme is a great addition to the prison’s work around Hōkai Rangi Foundations for Participation. “Employment gives people options and opportunities to have a different life,” she says. “All participants have gained a great deal from the course. The Dress for Success facilitators really connected with our women, earned their trust and that in turn created a very engaging learning environment.”

Carrie says running the programme on Sunday mornings also worked really well, with minimal traffic around the site and no interruptions to the sessions.

This course was a pilot programme and was adapted specifically for CWP from a course run in Arohata Prison.

Interested in a career as a programme facilitator?

Programme facilitators (Kaikawe Hōtaka) run therapeutic programmes that are designed to help offenders understand the factors that led to their offending. They help offenders to take responsibility for their actions, motivate them to change their behaviour and teach them new skills which will help them lead crime-free lives.

Learn more and share your skills with others today!