ALW 2014Award Winners

Community Learning Champion – Women Talk

Nominated by Helen Tucker, Sponsored by University of Bedfordshire

Women Talk was founded by Helen Tucker and is a network for women to have a place and forum where they can share their experiences in a safe and encouraging environment with the support of their advisor from the Community Learning Trust, Tracey Attard.

The project organised an International Women’s Summit which was hugely positive and motivational. They have published the “Women Talk” book in which the women involved have focused on a story from their life that changed their life. Every story outlined in the book is a true representation of what happened. People wrote their memoir down, a moment from their past that sometimes looked disastrous but in the end empowered them to be stronger. It changed their life for the better.

The Women Talk Book has contributed to supporting the work that Women Talk does in bringing women together. This has been an opportunity for women to meet other women from different backgrounds, cultures, ages and experience. They have delivered a series of events such as healthy eating from West Africa, beauty makeovers, financial seminar, weight loss, business development and organised a Women Summit celebrating International Women’s Day which targeted women from diverse cultural backgrounds, as well as community groups and organisations.

There have been a variety of challenges and successes, with the most positive aspect of the project being able to give the women involved the opportunity to share their own personal stories and having this published in a book. The impact of the book is that other women now want to share their stories, in turn encouraging other women to build the confidence to share their own stories. There is now a waiting list to produce a second book during the summer.

Women Talk is needed for women to have a place where they have access to other women from a variety of backgrounds where barriers are broken down, assumptions being challenged and a richness of different cultures coming together as a learning experience.

Family Learning – Lorraine Castle

Nominated by Janet Cook, BPHA, Sponsored by BPHA

Lorraine was originally referred to the Goldington Family Centre back in January 2012 by her Health Visitor for support with accessing the centre groups and services. At the time Lorraine was extremely vulnerable and low in confidence having fled from domestic abuse and needed support to manage her son’s undiagnosed additional needs. She was referred to the Centre’s Liberty programme, which is a domestic support group, and also received support from staff to eventually get her son seen by the Child Development Centre.

With Lorraine’s growing confidence she later felt able to engage in 1- 1 sessions and groups for the benefit of her son and in June 2012 signed up to the Keys to Learning Project, a family learning project to raise children’s educational achievements. Through the Centre’s partnership with BPHA on the project Lorraine has been committed to accessing training with the future prospect of returning to work. Lorraine achieved her Level 1 IT Qualification in November 2013 with flying colours and is now nearing completion of her Level 2 IT Qualification. She is also undertaking a Level 2 Qualification in Numeracy and has signed up to a 10 week parenting programme at the Centre which started last month.

Lorraine is supporting her son through nursery which has enabled him to build a network of friends and enrich his development. She continues to take full advantage of the learning opportunities presented to her, to give her son the best start in life.

ESF Achiever of the Year, Bedford Borough/Central Bedfordshire Council – Louise Roberts

Nominated by Peter Rayner – BPHA, Sponsored by ESF Team, Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire Council

Louise signed up to the ESF Community Employment Support programme in March 2013 after being unemployed since January of that year. Being a lone parent, Louise had undertaken mainly part time work in recent years and was struggling financially.

The ESF project provided Louise with training to enable her to produce a powerful and targeted CV. Training was also provided on completing both paper based and online application forms. This training resulted in Louise gaining more interviews then she had previously achieved. To assist her with performing well at these interviews, Louise attended Interview Skills training, which she successfully completed. All that remained was for Louise to identify more vacancies that she could apply for and to expand her career options. She attended a Job Search Skills training session and used Adult Directions software to identify alternate jobs to match her skills.

Louise identified Gardening and Cleaning as possible alternate careers that would be suitable and the prospect of volunteering was discussed. Louise was put in touch with BPHA’s Volunteer Co- ordinator, and was taken on as a volunteer gardener in May 2013. Louise attended training at Shuttleworth College in using Brush Cutter and a Wood Chipper and was then asked to carry out garden maintenance for vulnerable BPHA residents. Louise was hardworking and very popular with her fellow volunteers.

Louise then went on to attend a pilot of BPHA’s Budgeting training and following this agreed to join the BPHA Financial Inclusion Panel to try and help promote and improve advice services for residents.

During this time Louise continued to seek paid work and decided to go self employed as a Cleaner and successfully secured a few small cleaning contracts. However, this was still not enough of an income, so recently she was asked by a major cleaning contractor to step in on a temporary basis on a local contract. The staff were so impressed with her that the Managing Director of Cleaning Assurance offered her the opportunity of permanent full time job at Knebworth Park supervising and managing the cleaning staff. Louise started this job in May and is thrilled to be working full time.Although Louise has been coping with financial difficulties and bringing up her family single handed, she has always been prepared to work hard, improve her skills and provide her time to other vulnerable people.

Louise is now delighted that she can support herself once more.

ESF Achiever of the Year, Luton Borough – Marie Mitchell

Nominated by Lewis Godfrey, Kennedy Scott, Sponsored by ESF, Luton Borough Council

After returning to Jobseeker’s Allowance after a long period of illness, Marie had no IT skills, needed support with job searching and had multiple barriers to employment. In April 2013 Marie enrolled onto the ESF funded Employment Support for the Over 50s programme. With her advisor an action plan was agreed but it soon became apparent that Marie had difficulty integrating with new groups of people.

From the start, she kept an unblemished attendance record and with her advisor, Patrick Hyde’s, support happily got on with any task that was presented to her. Straight away she started working towards gaining some basic IT training, even though, as she commented, she was scared of using a computer and had only ever used a typewriter back at school.

The first barrier to work Marie faced was that she had not been in any sort of employment since 1991. To work through this, she and Patrick sat down together and slowly they started to create a CV of her life. By the end of the session, Marie went away with her first ever professionally tailored CV.As the weeks went by it was noticeable that Marie was enjoying the support she received and she began to engage openly with other clients and staff in the centre, making friends and engaging in conversations like she had not been able to do for some time. Marie now had a CV, her first email account, a working knowledge of Universal Jobmatch and had completed basic IT training.

When it was time for her to move onto an accredited IT course Marie was apprehensive as she had never earned a recognised qualification before. Soon enough, she had completed the course, received her certificate and commented she was “off to buy a frame and hang it on the wall”.

Marie now had a taste for learning and went on to achieve a variety of qualifications in areas of work she had never considered before. Marie’s hard work and dedication has paid off and she has now been supported into 2 part time positions, an office cleaning job and retail assistant role. Very soon, she is hoping to come off benefits altogether.

For Marie to overcome her illness and her lack of work experience is a remarkable achievement. She has completely transformed in the last year, from someone who was shy about meeting people and doubting her own abilities, she is now a strong, confident person, so much so that other learners look up to her as a role model. She remains a shining example of how learning can completely change lives for the better.

HE in FE Achiever of the Year (Higher Education in Further Education) – Faye Ginda

Nominated by Mark Beddow, Barnfield College, Sponsored by Bedford College

Faye is an exceptional young woman. She left school and attended Barnfield to do a Level 3 qualification, this she achieved with high grades. During this time she also served her community as a volunteer police cadet and did a range of qualifications there too as well, whilst studying and giving up 100s of hours of her own time to do so.

Faye had doubts about her own ability, but enrolled onto a HNC (Level 4) in Public Services. Faye achieved the highest possible grade in her HNC, achieving a distinction. More than that the senior examiner for England and Wales, reviewed her work and cited it as some of the best academic quality in the country. She has achieved this alongside her full time job overseeing 300 students as a Learning Mentor at Barnfield. Not bad for a young lady who wasn’t sure if she’d cope with HE.

Faye has worked hard to achieve and overcome her self- doubts and fears to succeed and do so whilst working to benefit others. She is the perfect role model.Her nominator says of Faye “Faye is without doubt one of the finest young women of her generation, she has proven that if you try you can succeed. Her nickname is Tina (after Tina Turner) because she is “Simply the Best”!.

Learning through Work & Adult Learning Champion – Nolan Johnson

Nominated by Bev Copestake, CAN Partnership, Sponsored by ESF Team, Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire Council

The CAN Partnership provides access to a multi- disciplinary team of professionals across Bedfordshire for adults trying to overcome substance misuse. They deliver a personalised, client led treatment journey, focusing upon the strengths and aspirations of our service users with an emphasis on the individuals’ recovery from drug and alcohol misuse. An important aspect of recovery can be moving back into work, so specialist services include education, training and employment support (ETE).Nolan attended a previous service in Dunstable until the contract to deliver all adult services was awarded to CAN Partnership in 2012.

Before then he admits he was near to death through excessive alcohol and his keyworkers feared for his life. It’s true to say that he tried almost everything to stop drinking – including residential rehab, followed by spells of abstinence only to start again. His recovery began when he realised he had no choice but to stop or to die.

Nolan had worked in a high pressured environment in a recruitment agency and was one of the top performers. He sustained this for several years when burn- out is usually around 2- 3 years. He says his coping mechanism was alcohol. He describes life then, which involved drinking from early morning until late at night to become a dependent drinker. This meant he could not function without alcohol. When Nolan finally decided he had to stop he attended the previous agency and then moved over to CAN Partnership. He worked with a key worker for several months and engaged in some of the groups offered.

He was on benefits and was referred to ETE for support. He wanted to re- train in a different area and thought seriously about using his experience to support others. From this we decided that he could do a Level 2 Counselling course which he completed in 2013. This was a life- changing experience; his engagement in adult learning helped him begin to re- build a sense of self- belief as well as giving him active listening skills and building on his natural empathy. The nature of the course itself helped him explore some of his personal issues.

He learned how to live without alcohol and he now uses other means to reward himself when things go well, just as he uses other tools to overcome difficulties. At the same time he was being pressured to find work so he got a job at Primark on a part- time basis while he studied. He said the early days were nerve- racking going back to work in a large retail store, but by doing this he was also able to continue attending CAN for support.

Also at this time CAN Partnership had aims to build a service user community. A Peer Mentor and Volunteer coordinator was employed whose task was to recruit, train and support peer mentors and volunteers, ideally drawing on existing service users giving them the chance to support others. Nolan became a peer mentor and has been actively supporting others on a voluntary basis for over a year. He began to co- facilitate a group called SMART in Leighton Buzzard and subsequently singly facilitates another group in Dunstable.

He draws on his counselling and listening skills to manage what can deteriorate into a challenging environment, supporting others to find a way forward without substance misuse. He then asked to support the work of the ETE team drawing on his recruitment skills. He attended an employment focussed group offered by CAN with aims to co- facilitate this. His contribution was honest, thoughtful and always supportive. He has also started a Computer Support Group, showing people with no IT skills how to use a mouse and keyboard and helping them to search for jobs and training.

So you can see, he uses his own learning to help others on many levels, from practical skills to emotional support, drawing on what he has learned both in formal education and through ongoing personal learning. Finally, he has just applied to work for CAN as a Recovery Champion and was offered the job just a few weeks ago. The role involves doing much of what he has already done, but he will now get paid for it!!

Nolan’s nominator says “Nolan’s journey has been long and difficult. He believes you have to push yourself and he continues to push himself by constantly stepping outside his comfort zone. He has exceptional personal qualities which include kindness, sensitivity, commitment, professionalism and dedication. He is a beacon of light for others struggling with addiction, a perfect candidate to act as a Recovery Champion. He is highly thought of by all at CAN both staff and service users. Recently when one of the service users mentioned he needed to get a coat but didn’t have any money, Nolan gave him one of his own”.

Learning through Partnership – Project MacKenzie

Nominated by Nicola King, Aragon Housing Association, Sponsored by University of Bedfordshire

Project MacKenzie is a partnership programme with Aragon Housing Association and the former Olympic athlete Kriss Akabusi. He delivers a series of motivational skills workshops called I- tang to encourage young people not in education or training, aged 16 – 24 years, to break down barriers to work, draw on their creativity and aspirations. The I- tang programme consists of speakers and group work including; business in a box, money management, and barriers to work, life skills building blocks, preparing for work experience, and many more.

Aragon’s Community Development Team facilitate the recruitment of young people via Jobcentre Plus, detached youth work, referrals from other agencies, job fairs, parents and self- referrals. There is also a mentor scheme of 20 Aragon staff trained in a mentor role to support young people through the workshops and also after the programme has finished.

Each cohort of the programme is bespoke to a particular work industry or multiple.Project MacKenzie links with other organisations in order to deliver its programme to enable young people to have the opportunity to gain work in a certain sector. This was achieved with the first cohort after partnering with Construction Gateway. The second cohort offered placements and experience in IT, office work, leisure centres and customer services.

Project MacKenzie is a sustainable, growing project and it’s really exciting to see how it will develop in the future. The project contributes to the fantastic work by other organisations and support to help young people into employment, gain skills and training. The plan is to organise a job fair at Aragon to invite various employers in Bedfordshire and Luton and share the programme to see how we can link up in the future and offer further job opportunities for the young people that take part in Project MacKenzie.

Lifelong Learner – Christine McWilliams

Nominated by Sasha McGregor, Aragon Housing Association, Sponsored by Luton Adult Learning

Christine has returned to learning after not taking part in any structured learning for a long period of time. While she understood the benefits of learning, it was a challenge for her to come back into that setting. However, her patience and persistence has meant that she has excelled at the training and supported other learners going through the same learning.

Christine has learnt how to do a range of online activities to enable her to benefit from a number of services which she would otherwise miss out on. Her achievements include: knowing how to look for online savings relating to insurance, utilities and shopping, this in turn has enabled her to make financial savings and maximise her income. She has received certificates in various elements of learning which will assist her in gaining employment as it shows that she now has up to date and relevant skills for the workplace.

In addition to attending the course for her own benefit, she has also attended further sessions after the end of her learning to assist others undergoing the training. Christine is also participating in other volunteer activities, such as providing feedback on services and has expressed an interest in assisting at a community café in her local area once it is up and running.

Christine has had some recent health issues however this has not hindered her keenness to help others or look for employment, which highlights her focus and consideration for others. Her positivity and friendliness is a credit to her, despite the issues she has faced in the past. By continuing to learn and give back to her local community, she is always looking to improve herself and improve the lives of others.

Tutor of the Year – Pam Cozens

Nominated by Bev Copestake, CAN Partnership, Sponsored by DRM Business, Training & Consultancy

Pam is part of the education, training and employment support team at CAN Partnership, working with adults from different backgrounds, with varying levels of education and work experience. Many have extensive gaps in employment and other barriers may include criminal convictions, family and relationship breakdowns, homelessness, debts or money problems.

esteem, little confidence and no aspirations. In 2011 CAN invested in a small property in Queens Park, to be used for training. It’s now known as the CAN House Training Project. It was started to give people the chance to learn basic skills in painting and decorating, but also includes some groundwork, landscaping, plastering, and will soon include kitchen and bathroom fitting. Pam’s role is tutor to adult learners in recovery – she’s known as the ‘House Project Facilitator’; a title that makes her chuckle. She is a painter/decorator by trade, and has also taught adults IT, literacy and numeracy in Bedford Prison.

She currently teaches up to 5 adults at a time who are risk assessed for eligibility and she structures each course around refurbishing the property, though it’s true to say some rooms have been papered, stripped, prepped and re- decorated. This project is unique in that it not only offers the learners the opportunity to build skills in the trades, but it also motivates them to take responsibility, to support each other and take positive steps back into the community.

Their progression is to gain a life without substance misuse.What is remarkable about Pam is that she connects with the people she teaches. She not only shares her expertise but she also listens when they share their stories. This is one of the main benefits of the project, some of the service users find it hard to speak in a therapeutic setting about anything from personal histories, trauma, struggle and shame. This gives them the chance to talk in a practical setting while knowing they are not judged.

The learning is more than just academic, it’s real life learning, how to re- build lives, so both industry skills and soft skills equip them to continue on their journeys. Some have moved into mainstream college, some into work and some have become volunteers. Their courage is overwhelming and Pam’s influence, support and commitment is worth merit as she maintains a calm and secure environment where some of the service users have experienced chaos and instability. As a professional decorator, Pam is a woman in a man’s world. This sums her up. She will not tolerate abuse, bullying or any kind of victimisation and she motivates her learners to try, even when they lack confidence. She encourages self- belief through engaging learners to have a go.

Volunteer – Syd Grover

Nominated by Laura de Quincey, Helping Hands Sandy, Sponsored by BPHA

Syd was instrumental in the setting up of the IT systems at Sandy Helping Hands Centre which opened in 2010 by volunteers to support minority groups in the area.  Many of the clients attending the centre had little knowledge about computers so Syd designed a basic beginners IT course which was successful, so the Centre  completed a bid for funding, were successful and then able to access a second year of computer courses for beginners.

The centre has now run 3 IT basic beginners courses because of Syd’s commitment, enthusiasm and dedication to the centre and in helping the clients.  Nothing is ever too much trouble and he is a willing member of the staff.  Syd also helps all the clients on a one- to- one basis to set up accounts in line with DWP government legislation with gateway and universal job match.  Syd goes above and beyond in helping the clients and has helped the centre to be successful in moving forward and developing.

Residents of Sandy and surrounding villages are able to access the training. Clients include the unemployed, disadvantaged, ex- offenders, over 50s and lone parents, as well as the employed, in wishing to engage in learning the basics about computers.  It has helped empower individuals, given them the confidence to do their own job search and not to see the computer as something which is alien to them and to feel comfortable using them.

Syd is an asset to the centre and really does deserve this award.