Hayley got qualifications in IT at college, but hadn’t been able to get work that used her skills, ending up doing jobs in catering and factories. She became unemployed after moving home and lost the confidence she needed to put herself forward and pursue the career she really wanted in IT. She was qualified, but didn’t have experience so people weren’t interested in taking her on.
She heard about one of Aspire Sussex’s adult learning centres, the Guildbourne IT Workshop, from the Jobcentre. A registered charity, and part of the national Community Learning Trusts (CLTs) pilot, the centre operates as a social enterprise. It offers a drop in facility for anyone who’s interested in developing their IT skills and has a skills academy that runs courses in IT and customer care. They work closely with Jobcentre Plus who refer people like Hayley to them.
An important principle of Aspire Sussex and other CLTs lies in providing learning provision that is tailored to the needs of local communities. In Sussex, the CLT has 26 partners, a mix of local businesses, charities, schools and prisons. With learning delivered with a range of providers and centres, individuals can access training and education that is designed for their specific situation.
Ros Parker is the Chief Executive of Aspire Sussex:
There are diverse learning needs within the local community. These could be business skills that will help people into work, they could be learning activities that support independence for adults with learning difficulties or disabilities, or they could be learning outcomes that have health benefits.
We put together tailor made learning opportunities led by local people and work in partnership to ensure those best placed to deliver local need are empowered and resourced to do so.
The scheme ensures that the learner is at the heart of learning provision, rather than individual learners having to adapt to what’s available. The focus is ultimately upon ensuring that people can get skills for independence, employability and social skills that they will need throughout life.
Aspire Sussex has centres in local communities in both deprived and more affluent areas, ensuring that funding can be targeted to those in greater need through subsidised learning. In wealthier areas, people who can afford to pay are charged to participate.
Support for those on lower incomes doesn’t stop there.
We also offer a bursary scheme for people who are on low incomes or in deprived communities but may not necessarily qualify under the means-tested benefits criteria.
The bursary means that cost is not a barrier for a wide group of people. We’re not just focusing on the very poor or the very wealthy but also people in the middle who are thinking of getting into a new career or starting their own business. Those people where learning might come lower down in their priorities in the list of things they can afford to take part in and that create the opportunities they need to progress.
Successful collaboration has made a real difference to how the CLT has progressed, and Ros has seen some very promising early results from the initiative.
It’s been really positive; everyone can see the benefits of collaboration. We have 26 partners in the Community Learning Trust, including chief executives, which is a very high level of commitment.
We’re not able to meet all the needs in the community alone, but through working together we are now equipped – we’ve got a really diverse group of people who are coming together and I really think the Community Learning Trust is making a big difference.
Whilst attending the IT workshop, Hayley got an NVQ level one in customer care to build on her existing IT qualifications.
I really needed customer care skills to be able to talk to customers. I didn’t really have the confidence or the understanding of how to do it because I had always been in the background with other jobs.
Hayley then went on to work on a voluntary basis at the workshop. She is now in paid work for the first time in two years, working as a fundraising organiser for the Workshop. She’s still continuing with her learning and has her sights set on her future.
At the moment I’m studying with the Open University, doing a maths degree, and then I’ll be going on to computer programming.
My confidence is 100% better than it used to be. If I hadn’t come to the workshop I’d probably still be working in a factory somewhere – it’s changed my life.
Aspire Sussex are hoping for many more success stories like Hayley’s, with a 5 year growth plan in place and a solid foundation for the future.
They intend to secure more and better services through the partnership that meet the needs of local communities. They then want to look beyond West Sussex, to support people in other areas using this highly successful model.