Joanne Richards, Manager of the Community Learning programmes provided a presentation to the panel. This was the final presentation regarding the projects Middlesbrough Community Learning offer to assist individuals gain work skills and employment.
The officer outlined that the purpose of community learning was to develop the skills, confidence, motivation and resilience of adults (19 years or over) of different ages and background in order to:
Progress towards formal learning or employment
Improve their health and wellbeing, including mental health and
Develop stronger communities
Joanne reminded the panel that the adult education budget was now being managed by Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA). Aline to this, the Common Spectrum Framework changed to delivering skills (rather than leisure courses) and in turn the TVCA was focussed on outcomes, linking to how courses can help individuals seek employment, with the purpose of ensuring individuals can gain a level of English which they can survive within a work setting.
Community learning was based across Middlesbrough within the Community Hubs, Libraries and schools and is priority driven, linking to Middlesbrough Councils 2025 vision; Fairer, Safer, Stronger. Community learning was done with partnership with Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation, NUR fitness, SAVVY and the NHS.
Courses provided included:
Family learning- positive parenting, fun with numbers (address the needs of parents within schools)
ICT- basic, intermediate and ECDL
Health and wellbeing e.g. SAVVY provide health and beauty but provide health and wellbeing training.
Employability course- Steps towards, a project whereby individuals gain 2 weeks experience in a skilled job e.g. housekeeping within a hotel. At the end of their experience, they are guaranteed an interview and success rate is high.
Healthy eating/ cooking on a budget - working towards the obesity strategy.
In terms of the Community learning learners, in 2018, there had been 2,930 learners and the breakdown was as follows:
Gender- female (61%), male (39%)
Ethnicity- White British (63%)/ BAME (37%)
Age- 19-24 (10%), 25-36 ( 31%), 37-48 (27%), 49- 60 (22%) and 61+ (10%), =it is noted that those 61+ tend to enrol on basic ICT skills.
There was a 96% attendance, 95% success and 70% are from deprived communities.
The panel learnt that like the Youth Employment Initiative, each learner has an Individual learning plan (ILP) which outlined their outcomes they wish to achieve from the course.
Of the learners:
35% go onto further learning (most learners may have just left college, so this can often be their first step since finishing education. They may not have been able to go elsewhere so this provides them with the opportunities for their first step into training)
24% go into employment, which can be linked from the Steps towards scheme
4% go into volunteering, however there was a push to encourage more volunteering after the courses.
20% not into employment, for example due to parental responsibilities
17%, those are learners that due to circumstances do not go onto anything further e.g. mental health issues, lone parent.
Family learning- Abingdon and Ayresome primary schools
The officer advised the panel that community learning were approached by Abingdon and Ayresome primary school, who found a number of their parents spoke little English consequently they had issues communicating with the school .For example when they sent letters out to these parents they often didnt get a response. Parents also didnt have the confidence to talk to their childs teacher about any issues. Due to the needs within the school, Middlesbrough Community learning ran a basic ESOL course for parents. The success rate was incredible, as parents had increased confidence, their English improved, many went onto further training and some looked for work. School attainment and homework improved as there was more understanding from parents.
The panel further learnt that a steps towards course would be running in the new year within Abingdon primary school, as they had been struggling to recruit lunchtime supervisors and they were hoping that this would enable parents to gain employment within the school.
Steps towards working in the NHS
The offficer further gave the panel a good example of excellent partnership working with a partner (NUR fitness) and the NHS. The rationale was to increase numbers of BME working within a support worker role. From the scheme, 26 ladies from the BME community were engaged in the project. Of those 26, 6 went into volunteering with the NHS and 1 went into paid employment. The scheme was also nominated for Tees Valley BME achievement award.
Feedback regarding community learning has been excellent, as seen from the below:
We would definitely recommend the partnership with other schools and organisations (Ayresome Primary school)
We have worked with MCSL for a number of years and have witnesses some great outcomes in terms of preparing parents for learning and to return to the labour market (Corpus Christi Primary school)
Once on the course I realised I had made the best decision of my life!
6 months ago I thought my life was over .....but now I feel life is just beginning.
The officer introduced Lisa Fallows, Managing Director of Savvy Health, Hair and beauty salon and training academy and Natalie, one of her learners. Joanne was an advocate of Lisa due to her determination and drive.
Lisa shared her story with the panel:
I left school when I was 16 years old, with no qualifications. I didnt know what to do, and college just wasnt for me, so I went to Middlesbrough Community Learning and got my English and Maths. Whilst I was there I knew there was a huge demand for hair and beauty. I have 6 children and know the strain being a Mam, wife, work and supporting others can be. I opened Savvy in North Ormesby, which is a deprived area and I share the same story as a lot of my learners. I did eventually go to College and university and I am now a qualified teacher, but I wouldnt have done that without community learning as they gave me the confidence to do this.
As I understand the strain go being a Mam, I try and help people in the community who need help. Our courses are flexible, so they can be done round the school run. Having parental responsibilities can be hard when you have to attend college 9-5. But our courses dont just offer health and beauty, we also tough on health and wellbeing, because when you face barriers, you can sometimes feel isolated and your self -confidence goes low.
Because of our flexible courses, we have excellent success rates and retention on courses- youre not just a number, who are someone who we will offer support and advice.
I like to share my story with my learners, because I came from nothing and now own my own business. We get a lot of learners approach us, through word of mouth, because we are based in the centre of the community but because we are unique. We encourage the learners to volunteer in the salon and our courses are hands on. We deliver the course in a working salon, where the learners are taught how to take bookings, do a consultation etc. We work with a number of partners so quite often the volunteering will lead to other things for our leaners and some have got jobs. But without community learning, this wouldnt be possible, so I would like to thank you for helping me and supporting me.
It was outlined to the panel that Lisa recently ran an awards ceremony for her learners, and it was inspirational to listen to the stories of those woman.
The officer lastly introduced Natalie, a learner and volunteer in Savvy. Natalie shared her story with the panel:
I went to Savvy, because college wasnt for me. Im 30 and I have 5 children. I wouldnt get to college because of transport and childcare but with Savvy it is in the community, I can walk there and I can juggle the kids.
Before I went to Savvy it was really hard. The night before I approached Lisa, I was in a really dark place and I wanted to end my life, but something in me stopped me. I felt selfish and knew that my kids needed me and I somehow got the courage to go to Lisa. She took one look at me and said are you alright? and a year on I am now volunteering in the salon.
Lisa listened to me and safeguarded me and she made me feel like I was something and not worthless. I think she is amazing and she is a role model. I know now that I was being selfish but my mental health was so low. I wouldnt get out of bed, or do my hair or makeup. My Mam had to take the kids to school. I do still get down days but I am out of that way of thinking and now look forward to my days.
I love working in Savvy and when I started my course we had to do role play of welcoming clients and doing bookings, to me this is the best way to learn.
Lisa provided further information of Natalies story:
Natalie approached me because of the networking we do in the community. I saw something in Natalie and through community learners was able to safeguard her. She now volunteers 3 times a week and she supports other volunteers who come into the salon privately and she is well liked and a huge success. Natalie is now writing a business plan to open her own business but Natalie asked to volunteer because she wanted hands on experience and wanted to be work ready. Natalie in on the road to her own business but community learning has changed her life and they have helped me as a business grow.
The panel thanked Lisa, Natalie and Joanne for their contributions and praised Lisa and Natalie for their determination and drive to get where they are today. The panel saw the true meaning of community learning through their stories.
Following the evidence provided, the Democratic Services officer outlined that they have heard evidence in relation to the terms of reference of the review. After discussion, the panel agreed that a short report would be established detailing what Middlesbrough Council is currently doing to help individuals gain work skills and employment. The report would drawn together the evidence provided over the past few meetings and conclude and recommend accordingly.
Agreed as follows:
1. That the information presented at the meeting be considered in the context of the scrutiny panel's investigation.
2. That a final report be developed and presented to the panel at a future meeting.