Adult learners get a 2nd chance

When single mother Ursula Sherwin was suddenly made redundant two years ago, like many in her situation she didn’t know where to turn. She had an eleven-year-old son to care for, a mortgage and bills to pay. Despite the economic downturn, Ursula’s redundancy came completely out the blue. “I was utterly stunned and dreadfully shocked. I’d never been out of work before in my life,” says Ursula, 39, who’d worked as a purchase ledger clerk.
Ursula, from Northwood, Stoke-on-Trent, was unemployed for nine months while she tried to find whatever work she could. But there was none. Then she saw an ad in the Sentinel for Stoke on Trent College and she leapt at it. “Jobs were so scarce I thought if I could get some qualifications behind me, I might stand a better chance,” she says.
So she texted the college and someone rang her straight back. Soon Ursula was on one of the many part-time adult education courses run at the college.
To help get Ursula back into work – something Stoke on Trent college specialises in – she was also put forward for a voluntary placement with a children’s charity where she carried out administrative work. While doing this, she took an NVQ level 1 in business administration. “It kept me busy. Better than being at home doing nothing.”
While working as a volunteer and studying part time at Stoke on Trent College Ursula saw a job advertised for an Energy Bureau position on the directgov website. When she applied, the job had gone but she was encouraged to apply for a different post which she got. Ursula now works as an energy administrator for GSH in the Energy Bureau validating utility bills and making sure everyone gets paid on time.
She is now taking her NVQ Level 3 at the college while working – having passed her NVQ Level 2. It’s a  perfect marriage of work and study. Before applying to the college for help, all Ursula had received was an in-house bookkeeping course at her former employer’s. Now she has a marketable qualification and a growing skillset.
This is just one example of how Stoke on Trent College reaches out into the community it serves and helps people in practical ways. Carol Thomas, Executive Director of Learning & Standards, said “The biggest change for us over the last couple of years is the focus we now make on courses that give people the skills to succeed in the job market – either re-entering it or entering it for the first time. Our courses are all about getting people back into jobs, to help them change career and/or progress in existing roles.
“We give them the practical hands-on skills that employers are actually looking for – often they’ve been finding it hard to recruit the right people with the right skillset. We marry up jobseeker with job provider and act as a bridge between the two.”

But there’s no need to be made redundant to find out how rich the source of training and education is at Stoke College. The new adult part-time prospectus has just come out and the college is recruiting for all its courses right now. So why not take a look and see if there’s something to suit? For Ursula Sherwin, as for many other adult part-time students, it was truly life changing. “I tended to lack confidence in my ability before I went to the college. Now, achieving my NVQ levels 1 and 2 has really given me a boost. I feel that the qualifications have helped me understand the tasks involved in an administration post. It’s great to feel that I’m bettering myself and I’m now studying for my NVQ level 3,” adds Ursula.

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