BERNIE Davenport has spent five years working in Harlow, offering courses to the homeless and unemployed to get people back into the work place.
Working with the Employability Skills and Innovation team at Bright Futures, Bernie teaches a variety of courses including a moving-on course aimed at single parents, security, construction, IT, hospitality and retail. Courses last for three weeks, with a further six days industry learning.
To join a course, students are required to demonstrate Maths and English ability through a compulsory functional skills exam.
Thirty people are accepted on to the courses every six weeks, however on average only 50 per cent turn up to complete their course. ‘People can become impatient if they’re working at a higher level to others,’ Bernie explains.
Bernie also travels to a lot of coastal towns including Southend-on-Sea and Clacton. She said: ‘Unemployment is considerably low in these areas, people don’t finish their education and then tend to get comfortable living on benefits.’
The success stories are amazing; Bernie described how one learner, aged 62, found employment whilst still being enrolled on the course. She said: ‘Nothing really compares to the indescribable feeling I get when I receive an email from someone thanking me for my help.’
However, there are times when her job becomes challenging. After taking the functional skills exam, Bernie recalls: ‘Someone was begging to retake their English exam, but over time you do harden to letting people go.
‘On the first day, everyone tends to be really shy, but by the third day friendships are formed and this can sometimes disrupt the learning. If I could enforce a no phone policy, I would.
‘I would like to offer more diverse courses, but I love making a difference in people’s lives, I don’t see myself going anywhere any time soon.’
Bright Futures is linked with both the job centre and Harlow College. For more information, go to: www.harlow-college.ac.uk
All photos taken by Leah Bloxham.