SIXTY-year-old Bernie Davenport loves getting people back into work. She has spent five years working with the Employability Skills and Innovation team in Harlow, offering courses to the homeless and unemployed. Whilst her job is extremely rewarding, at times it can be very challenging.
Situated in Harlow Town, in the Bright Futures office and working alongside the local Job Centre, Bernie teaches a variety of courses such as security, construction, a moving-on course aimed at single parents, IT, hospitality, retail and more. Courses can 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. Bernie explains: ‘People can become impatient if they’re working at a higher level to others.’
Bernie 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.’