An inspirational project has given Bay residents the chance to make their career aspirations a reality during national celebration The Festival of Learning.
The success of the Stepping Stones Pre-Employment Project – set up following a £3,000 donation from Sanctuary Housing to community organisation Imagine CIC – has seen 16 residents complete a range of achievements set to bring them closer to, or into, work, marking the national celebration of lifelong learning.
With the project encouraging engagement through leisure, vocational interests and hobbies, all of the participants took part in a series of work experience placements, with nine going on to actively volunteer their time, skills and experience in community organisations across Torbay.
Other programme participants have completed a variety of accredited and in-house training courses designed to teach them important skills for future employment, including food hygiene, first aid and customer service. Some of the residents have used these qualifications to secure paid work in areas such as youth services, community health and retail.
Making great use of the programme’s bespoke nature, two of the group members have created and set up support groups which reflect issues that they are passionate about, as an alternative route into paid work.
One person who took part is 22-year-old George, who has launched support group Project Central for young adults who are questioning their sexuality or gender, drawing on his life experiences. He said: “Stepping Stones has helped me to work on one of the things that I’m most passionate about, and to make this happen is a dream come true.”
George’s achievement with Project Central has led to paid work at Torquay’s Windmill Centre as a programme assistant, with his increased self-confidence meaning he successfully applied to college where he studied art and design.
Another Torbay resident that Stepping Stones has helped is Ann. Thanks to the programme’s help she has also set up a support group, Protected, for local people experiencing domestic abuse.
Ann said: “Having gone through domestic abuse myself, starting the group means I am able to give something back to the community.”
Sanctuary’s neighbourhood partnerships manager, Lynne Roberts, added: “Through Stepping Stones, we have invested in local people like George and Ann to help them realise the ambitions they hold for themselves and their neighbourhoods, and these are just some of the success stories the project has seen.
“The numbers speak for themselves, and every one of the 16 project participants has achieved significant milestones to move them closer to, or into, paid work.”
The Festival of Learning is a national event taking place during May and June 2016, encouraging people across England to try something new through lifelong learning. To find out more, visit festivaloflearning.org.uk.
The Stepping Stones Project was funded by Sanctuary’s Community Investment Fund, supporting projects which benefit Sanctuary residents and their communities.