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Laughter, tears and cake filled Kingsholm last week, as we joined together to celebrate the last six years of GEM with a special showcase: The GEM Journey.

With the GEM Project coming to an end in December 2022, it was the perfect opportunity to celebrate some of the incredible achievements across the last six years, reminisce with past and present individuals involved in the project, and recognise and acknowledge everyone who has played a part in making the GEM Project such an exemplar and lifechanging programme.

Nearly 200 people took their seats last Thursday and embarked on a trip from October 2016 until today, welcoming some exceptional people to the stage who shared numerous inspirational stories about how the GEM Project had impacted them, their organisation, and the local economy.



Following a moving introduction from former GEM Ines, who despite previously struggling to find work as she is registered blind, is now working as an administrator for Gloucestershire County Council; this set the pace for the afternoon in which guests witnessed many heart-warming, emotional yet amazing stories, as former and current GEMs shared their own personal and unique experience about how GEM and in particular their Navigator Developers had changed their lives for the better.

Chief Executive of GFirst LEP, David Owen, also took to the stage, sharing his views about how he believed Inclusivity Works for employers, and encouraged all organisations in Gloucestershire to be more diverse and inclusive in their workplace, to not only reap the business benefits but help develop Gloucestershire’s economy as a whole.

Several influential guest speakers also joined us for the occasion, including Sue Ormiston, Head of the Building Better Opportunities (BBO) Programme, who shared findings about BBO from a national perspective and Mark Hawthorne, Leader of Gloucestershire County Council providing an overview of the vision and strategy for the county moving forward.

Between poems, speeches, Zoom conversations, mini exhibitions and the chance to speak one-on-one with our GEM participants and Navigator Developers, there were countless opportunities throughout the afternoon to reflect on the real impact that the GEM Project has had over the years, supporting people to move closer towards or into employment, education or training. This was proven in even more detail by guest speakers Leonie Burton and Paul Courtney from the University of Gloucestershire, who have led the Monitoring and Evaluation of GEM for the last six years and confirmed that the data clearly indicates that GEM has achieved and delivered its objectives.


Before guests were invited to continue the celebrations with a drink’s reception, afternoon tea, exhibits and other GEM activities, the showcase was drawn to a close by Jason Dunsford, Head of Employment and Skills at Gloucestershire Gateway Trust, who, since 2016 has successfully managed the project and team.

His final thoughts about GEM truly indicated how much of a unique, memorable, and inclusive partnership the GEM Project is and how its clearly made a lasting impact on thousands of people across Gloucestershire… something to never forget… GEM’s lasting legacy.

The GEM Journey: our story from 2016 until 2022

by Nikki Davies

Written by By Karen Bucknall, GEM Project Participant and Bread Head

“The brainchild of GEM Project Manager Jason Dunsford, the brief to create a limited addition loaf, scone or bread rolls was the perfect opportunity for six GEM participants to come together, despite their disability or individual barriers, to work as a team and produce a limited-edition bakery project, that would be sold at Gloucester Services.

A collaboration between the GEM Project, Gloucestershire Gateway Trust, Gloucester Services and Hobbs House Bakery, the course was supported by The Engine, a local social enterprise, based in Dursley which supports business development and growth in the South Gloucestershire area.

Charlie was the tutor, and the participants - Rich, Tahira, Brendan, Debra, James and me - learned how to develop as a team, understand the principles of new ideas, research the bakery and develop an unique product, understand costing and production constraints, and pitched our ideas to key stakeholders.

We the participants all have an interest in food, as well as retail, hospitality, counselling, bee keeping, fashion design or customer care industries.

In our group of six, we brainstormed ideas which included: mulled wine bread, lavender tea bread, cheese and bacon roll, with three ideas making it through to the final round. Rich’s Double Gloucestershire Cheese and Apple GEM Scones, Tahila’s Blush Sumic Bread, and Karen’s Honey, Apple, Cinnamon and walnut Bee Harmony loaf, made with spelt flour (which is kinder to the digestive system, for coeliac’s and people that have/ had bowel cancer, who may find it difficult to digest heavier wheat breads).

All of the ideas brought in the local countryside, the environment, the local history and the diverse communities of Gloucestershire.

About us

Before each participant joined The GEM Project, they had been diagnosed with a disability or a hidden disability and went from working or studying to being unemployed or having to give up their academic courses, or do their course as an online one, with writing their essays or dissertations from home. This was either a mental health disability or a physical disability through illness or an accident. With one participant, now in remission who had been diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer, and a benign brain tumour.

We all thought that we were on the scrap heap, at an all-time low, feeling a burden on society because they were now living off benefits and PIP. Each participant feeling depressed, useless and that no employer would ever want tthem working for them, and they would be unemployed forever. That’s when The GEM Project steps in to help people through illness, disability or a bad accident to get back into work, a training course, or go onto college or university.

I have been with the GEM Project two and a half years, and I can recall my first phone call to my GEM Navigator Developer Tracy, crying down the phone, saying “I am a failure, no employer will ever want me, I am aged fifty, post cancer and with hidden disabilities, living off benefits, and it’s all over for me. I feel a burden on my family and on society.”


After graduating from Coventry University, BA Hons Sociology, I went onto journalism college, and with encouragement from Tracy, I have now passed out from NCTJ and BCTJ online journalism colleges. I am now a freelance journalist, and is a volunteer social media/media journalist for cancer and brain tumour charities.

Rich, had a similar story.  A former rugby player and coach, and a counsellor mentoring young people. Then he got diagnosed with health problems which affected his mental and physical health. Not working affected his self-confidence and self-esteem. Being part of The GEM Project helped him gain more confidence and he believes in himself, and once again feels he can contribute something back to his community and make a difference.


After a successful course, the winning end product The GEM Scones, was chosen by a panel of judges. The GEM Scones celebrates and embraces all that Gloucestershire has to offer, by bringing in apples, and by bringing in the regions cheese, the Double Gloucester, a full-cream cheese, with a rich buttery taste.

How did it make the participants feel being on the limited-edition course? The overall feeling was they enjoyed it very much, it gave them confidence, belief and many new skills.  Maybe one day in the future, the group can be re united to work on another new product, that is sold at Gloucester Services, watch this space…”



Bread Heads come up with the GEM of an idea

by Becky Boseley

The GEM Project continues to prove just how special this programme truly is, by holding a recent event that was organised by individuals signed up to the programme.

From live music to carpentry skills, our GEM Participants’ Council delivered a fantastic Summer Gathering for our former and current GEM participants, Navigator Developers and other members of the GEM partnership to experience; coming together to reflect on the success of GEM and showcase the achievements of our amazing participants on the project.

On offer throughout the day was the opportunity for people to participate in a variety of activities including yoga, origami, wooden bird box making, art activities, haircuts, and penalty shoot outs; which were provided by previous GEMs who had gone on to set up their own business or through partner organisations.

Several GEM participants also came along to promote their new business ventures which had been made possible thanks to the GEM Project, as well as Syrian food served up at lunchtime by a former GEM who found employment at a local restaurant in Gloucester.

There was also an array of entertainment for visitors to enjoy, including live music from two of our current GEMs as well as several of our Navigator Developers taking to the stage to sing. This followed on from several GEM video clips of individuals sharing their personal journeys, as well as a heartfelt speech from Participant Council member John.

The Participants’ Council is formed of both current and former GEM participants, who help guide and shape the project. They are the voice of the GEM participants, influencing core decisions which are fed back to the Management team and implemented to ensure that the project continues to focus on the needs of those engaged with the programme.  

This event provided the opportunity for Council members to enhance their skill set in event planning and organisation, whilst providing a brilliant social gathering for individuals signed up to the project to enjoy – a double accomplishment as a result of the uniqueness of the GEM Project.






GEM Summer Gathering: An event organised for GEMs by GEMs

by Nikki Davies


Are you struggling to find work? Are you unable to get through traditional recruitment processes? Are you being invited to interviews but not being offered the role?

Designed to be different, our new and exciting inclusive jobs fair is open to anyone looking for a work based opportunity but may be finding it difficult to currently find work. 

Come and join us on Wednesday 11th May from 10am until 3pm at Blackfriars Priory in Gloucester where you will have the opportunity to meet with a wide range of local inclusive employers offering various work opportunities, including full and part time positions, apprenticeships, trainee roles, work trials and placements. 

We are delighted to welcome the following employers to our event, with the list continually growing over the next few weeks:

McDonalds Franchise       Stroud District Council       G4S


Pro Cook         Commerical


Pro Global   Ubico   Gloucester Services


Hunt 4      The Orders of St Johns Care Trust      


Gloucestershire County Council   Hartpury College   Start and Grow Enterprise


      Bromford Housing


CCP - Caring for Communities and People    Gloucestershire Constabulary    Morrisons


Royal Agricultural University   Freemans Event Partners   Proud to Care Gloucestershire


GL Communities       NHS Gloucestershire Health and Care Foundation Trust   


Our onsite mentor team will also be on hand throughout the day to guide you around the jobs fair and help make those important introductions to employers should you need it. We will be able to help job match you to suitable organisations and roles and ensure you're able to access all the facilities available on the day. 

What's more there will be a number of workshops being held during the day, ran by Adult Education, GRCC and the National Careers Service, including Customer Service skills, Interview Tips, CV Writing, Confidence Building and LinkedIn support. Full workshop details will be available soon. 

There will also be the opportunity to submit job applications, enhance CVs and receive general careers advice in our dedicated career support space, thanks to the Gloucestershire Employment and Skills Hub team, as well as have a professional headshot photograph taken for your own use.

To ensure we provide you with the best possible experience, please prebook an arrival timeslot to our Jobs Fair, either by calling 01452 699741 or emailing 

Timeslots are available every hour between 10am and 2pm. Please be aware that from 10am until 11am has been designated as a quiet hour. 




by Nikki Davies

We are delighted to announce after the success of our first four Inclusivity Works Lunch and Learn webinars last November, we have just launched series 2!

We had some great feedback so we really hope you found them informative and useful, if you missed any or would like to watch again or share with colleagues, you can find the recordings along with top tips sheets for each session here: Lunch and Learn | Inclusivity Works

Registration is now open for our second series of Lunch and Learn, which will run at the same time on Tuesdays throughout February.  Register today to secure your place and remember you only have to register once to access all four sessions – see all the topics below.

Click here to register -

Lunch and Learn Series 2

by Harry Cowley

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