Small Organisation, Big Results
Welcome to our website. Here you will find information about us, our history and the programmes and services we deliver. We hope you enjoy your visit. Please get in touch with us if you would like more information about what we do and how we can help you.
Everyone has potential, some people just need a little extra help to recognise theirs
Our story is, quite simply about linking opportunity with need and one which is founded in the vision and leadership of Belfast City Council. In 1998 the Council commissioned a study which looked at the Belfast Gasworks regeneration programme and how this could bring employment opportunities to the people living in the communities and neighbourhoods contiguous to the Gasworks site.
The ‘Gasworks Employment Matching Service’, which became the Belfast GEMS Project, was driven by a partnership-led approach to augmenting the then mainstream employability/employment initiatives. The over-arching aim was to enhance social inclusion and improve the local skills base and maximise the employment opportunities for people living in the Gasworks and Laganside areas. The Belfast GEMS project, supported through funding from Belfast City Council, Laganside Corporation, the Department for Employment and Learning, Belfast Regeneration Office, Halifax plc who, with East Belfast and South Belfast Partnerships established the Belfast GEMS Advisory Forum. Belfast GEMS went ‘live’ as project of South Belfast Partnership, on 15th January 2002, as a pilot project with initial funding support for 27 months.
The Belfast GEMS project concept was aligned to the Dublin Inner-City Employment Service (ICES) and greatly supported both in its infancy by Peter Nolan, then Employment and Enterprise Co-ordinator for Dublin Inner City Partnership, who provided leadership and management to the ICES projects in Dublin’s inner city. Peter has continued to support GEMS from its early days, is our previous and esteemed founding Chair and remains an active board member and a great Ambassador for GEMS on the island of Ireland and across Europe.
The Belfast GEMS project exceeded all the original targets set for the project pilot phase; however, the project recognised three key areas for development:
These three development areas were instrumental to our continued growth and progress, and our becoming an organisation in our own right. GEMS NI became a Company limited by Guarantee and accepted as a charity for HMRC purposes in May 2006.
We went on to add a fourth key area of development that has been critical to our continued success: collaborative working. Unemployment, economic inactivity and worklessness are symptoms of the wider social and economic exclusion experienced by people who live in communities and neighbourhoods that feature high levels of deprivation. No one organisation or agency has all the answers; accordingly, collaborative or partnership working encourages organisations like GEMS to share knowledge and resources that help to create innovative approaches to tackling unemployment, economic inactivity and worklessness. By sharing knowledge and resources, we are thus able to scale our services up whilst keeping the emphasis on one-to-one engagement mentoring that provides free, impartial, careers education, information, advice and guidance to our service-users.
Today, GEMS is widely recognised as an organisation that works to make a difference to communities and lives by helping to create pathways to sustainable employment for people who experience barriers to the labour market. This has included the delivery of government programmes such as the LEMIS project, and the development of innovative projects both in Northern Ireland and on a European Platform. Between 2006 and 2015 we developed a range of innovative projects and programmes which built upon the four key development areas, including:
Some of the highlights during this period include: Our KESTREL project being recognised by the Japanese Centre for Longevity as best practice in productive ageing and by the King Baudouin Foundation as a project demonstrating Social Innovation in Ageing
Our CO-MENT project, put forward by Belfast City Council and recognised by EuroCities as one of ten cities demonstrating ‘Strategic Engagement at Local Level’
Together Everyone Achieves More
We currently have a small Board Chaired by Cliff Kennedy MBE, an experienced third sector leader, that works together to ensure the organisation meets its corporate governance accountabilities, supports our strategic direction, provides guidance to the Chief Executive and Senior Management Team and acts as ambassadors for GEMS NI and our values, ethics and practice principles.
Susan has led GEMS NI since it started as a project of South Belfast Partnership in 2001, leading its incorporation as a company limited by guarantee/registered charity in 2006. Susan has designed many projects and programmes over the past seventeen years including CO-MENT and its European “cousin,” EC-YP
Shane has been with GEMS NI since its launch in January 2002 and has led many GEMS projects including LEMIS, M-Power and Learning Language for Work Shane also established GEMS Enterprises and has been responsible for the development of our Social Enterprise arm. Shane is currently seconded to Oxford Innovation as the Innovation Factory Community Engagement Manager, leading initiatives to ensure community stakeholders benefit from the Innovation Factory.
Anne has been with GEMS NI since its launch in January 2002 and has led our employer engagement strategy, marketing and events management and other activities. Anne currently leads our CO-MENT project, Community Family Support Project and many Erasmus+ projects GEMS NI has led/been part of over the years.
Francesca has been with GEMS NI from 2003 and has managed our finances, HR and central administration since 2006. Francesca is also GEMS NI Lead ISO Auditor and has responsibility for purchasing, health and safety and managing project budget and spend across the organisation.
Stephen has been with us since, 2004 initially as an Employability Outreach Mentor, LEMIS Team Leader and our Client Services Manager, ensuring GEMS NI makes best use of its programmes and services through effective communication and sharing of good practice across the organisation. Stephen is currently Project Manager for EmployAbility South and has been instrumental in the project exceeding its targets.
Chairperson: Cliff Kennedy MBE
Company Secretary: Rosy Billingham
Treasurer: Donal Collins
Deputy Chairperson: Arthur Hamilton
Director: Peter Nolan
Director: Jim Rodgers OBE*
* Mr Rodgers resigned from GEMS NI Board 23/10/2017
Our CEO and Senior Team
Chief Executive: Susan Irvine Russam MBE
Director of Corporate Services: Francesca Murray
Director of Business Services: Anne Downs
Director of Employment Services: Shane Smith
Client Services Manager: Stephen Atkinson
House Keeper: Margaret Richardson
Our Project Teams
Quality Manager: Louise Heaney
Project Support Officers:
Coordinator: Jackie Millar
Minority Ethnic Employability Support Worker: Yvonne Largey
Project Support Officer: Trevor Scott
Guidance Practitioner/Mentor: Andrew Snowdon
Senior Community Marketing Coordinator: Ceallaigh Gatt
Project Support Officer: Joe Evans
Community Family Support Programme:
“Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort” - John Ruskin
All our programmes and services are aligned to our organisational objectives of supporting unemployed people with high-quality, impartial one-to-one guidance/mentoring, personal development and vocational skills training and qualifications and access to job opportunities leading to sustainable employment.
CO-MENT is GEMS NI’s innovative approach to supporting young people who are NEET and who do not cope in mainstream vocational education and training/Further Education settings. CO-MENT quite simply wraps its support around the unique needs and aspirations of the young person and helps them to be the driver of their own employability pathway across 4 integrated “zones” Learning, Life, Leisure and Work. GEMS NI works with partner organisations providing support to young people aged 16-24 supporting to positive destinations in education, training, employment and volunteering.
CO-MENT was designed in 2010 by us and was funded 2012-15 by the Department for Employment and Learning Collaboration and Innovation Fund and from 2015 – 2018 by the European Social Fund, Department for the Economy and Lisburn Castlereagh Council.
CO-MENT is currently funded (2018- 2022) by the European Social Fund, Department for the Economy and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and we are currently seeking additional public match funding to support the project.
GEMS NI is the project manager for the delivery of the Employment East Programme. Employment East is for unemployed, underemployed people living in specific postcode areas in East Belfast.
Employment East is funded by the Executive Office via the Social Investment Fund and can help eligible participants with a wide range of employment and training support including:
For Further information email Stephen Atkinson
LEMIS+ is funded by the European Social Fund, Department for the Economy and Belfast City Council; LEMIS+ is delivered by a city-wide consortium led by Ashton Community Trust in partnership with GEMS NI, Upper Springfield Development Trust, Impact Training and East Belfast Mission. LEMIS+ provides one-to-one mentoring, personal development, ICT skills and vocational training and employer-led training programmes and Academies and job matching services. GEMS NI Manages LEMIS+ in South Belfast and also provides specific support for participants who are non-native speakers of English through our culturally-competent careers information, education, advice and guidance service.
Funded by ESF and the Department for the Economy, and led by Upper Springfield Development Trust with partners GEMS NI, Impact Training, East Belfast Mission and Ashton Community Trust, CFSP works with families with a young person who is NEET or at risk of becoming NEET on leaving statutory education.
CFSP offers a range of supports to families and individual family members including, healthy eating, keeping fit, stress management and money management and support to move from benefit dependence to sustainable employment.
GEMS NI manages the Community Family Support Project in South Belfast.
Funded by the Executive Office through the Social Investment fund, EmployAbility South provides access to training, development and vocational qualifications and the opportunity for a 13-week paid job with a host employer.
The EmployAbility South project finished 31 March 2018. We are confident that the EmployAbility South model will have a future! This is because it has proven that really works to connect people to jobs and jobs to people. If you would like further information on EmployAbilty South contact Stephen Atkinson (link to Stephen’s email here)
“There is enough dough in the world to make bread for all of us to eat together” – Habeeb Akande
GEMS NI have been actively participating in and leading European Projects; initially, Leonardo da Vinci partnerships and Transfer of Innovation projects and since 2014 the Erasmus+ Programme. The following are examples of the projects we have been involved in.
DAY-PLOT DayPlot is led by Antares/Eulab Italy and has partners in Northern Ireland (GEMS NI) Spain, Norway, Finland and Austria The aim of the project is to use gamification to develop support materials for teachers/tutors working with NEET young people/young migrants. Partners are currently designing the storyboard for a game involving a young alien who has travelled to earth and needs help to navigate their way through education, employment, citizenship and Europe
Project SUDEGO led by Antares Italy with partners in Northern Ireland, Spain, Bulgaria, Finland and Italy. In brief, SUDEGO will analyse in detail 5 of the 17 European Sustainable Development Goals and develop training materials for schools that support the curriculum in relation to the promotion of sustainable development.
A lei is the flower garland that it is customary for visitors to Hawaii to receive as a gesture of welcome on their arrival.
With partners from Italy, Germany, Northern Ireland, Spain and Portugal, The LEI project aims to improve how marginalised young people, specifically refugees and asylum-seekers, young people at risk of early school leaving and students who experience disadvantage, are welcomed in the school institutions.
NQCA Led by Ballymun Job Centre, Networking for Quality Culture and Quality Assurance worked with partners in N Ireland, Italy, Germany, UK, Hungary and Finland to develop models to improve how organisations network resulting in the development of a quality culture. GEMS NI was able to use the EmployAbility South Project as a live model which captured SROI directly linked to networking to achieve a quality culture and quality assured outputs for learners.
The NQCA project completed January 2018
“First have a definite, clear and practical ideal; a goal and objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials and methods. Third adjust all your means to that end” – Aristotle
“The celebration… you cannot practice it or anything. It’s a moment when the excitement of your goal makes you react to the moment”
Sometimes we are so busy, we forget to stop and the time to celebrate the success of the people we work with, our partners, our staff and our organisation – we simply move on to the next task or the next project. In putting our new website together, we have added a corner for events and celebrations, a place for our staff, our partners and the people we work with to add small articles and posts about the things we do together.
“Greatness can be contagious, but first there must be contact” TemitOpe Ibrahim
We really want to hear from you! If you want to find out about the services we offer, specific programmes and projects we manage, or want us to be a partner in a new project leave us a message with your name and contact email and contact number and some information about your enquiry hit the submit button and we will get back to you.