Open the door to learning opportunities

With the issue of rising youth unemployment hitting the headlines, there's little doubt it's a difficult time to be a school or college leaver. But there are options available as Norfolk County Council's Adult Education and Guidance Services explains.

We all know by now that employers want people with skills, but knowing how to gain these mysterious and sought after skills is another thing altogether.

Adult Education runs courses at different locations in Norfolk that specifically aim to give learners the skills and experience that employers want.

There are courses and qualifications for people of all ages, but also ones specifically for 16 to 18 year-olds – and many of them are free.

For young people who aren't sure what training or career they want to pursue, the free Step On induction programme is ideal. It gives 16 to 18 year-olds the chance to find out about different skills and learning options over the space of a week or a fortnight before committing to a longer period of learning.

Young people on the Step On programme have the opportunity to try out learning wide-ranging vocational skills including:

• hairdressing

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• construction

• motor vehicle engineering

• retail

• sport and active leisure

• childcare

• art and design

• countryside skills

They can then choose to sign up to a 30-week foundation learning programme in the subject or subjects of their choice, also run by Adult Education in partnership with employers who provide hands-on experience for the learners.

Learners attend twice weekly over three ten week blocks, building to a whole year of learning and in most cases leading to a vocational Level 1 diploma.

As well as a vocational qualification, young people studying on the 30-week course will have the chance to gain qualifications in English, Maths and ICT.

Successfully completing the foundation learning programme gives learners several options - young people leaving last year's programme have found jobs, secured apprenticeships and gone onto study Level 2 courses and other higher level qualifications.

Sherry Elsey from Norwich took part in the Step On programme late last year and is currently studying on the foundation learning programme in hairdressing at John Oliver Hairdressing in Norwich.

Sherry has two young children and has been able to combine her roles of mum and student with great success.

Sherry said: 'I've always wanted to be a hairdresser, although with kids I thought it be hard coming back to learning. Step On helped me realise what training was available and more importantly what skills I needed for my career. I enjoyed all the tasters and found it really fun, and my confidence is building up.'

More than 250 young people in Norfolk have completed the Step On programme since it launched in September 2010, with most of them going onto the 30-week foundation learning course.

Anyone in Norfolk aged 16 – 18 years-old, not in full-time education or training can enrol on the Step On induction Programme, which is absolutely free.

Courses start throughout the year with the next ones due to begin in December and January in Norwich, King's Lynn, Holt and for the first time in Great Yarmouth.

For more information or to register, ring Norfolk County Council Adult Education Services on 07827 662429 and ask for 16-18 Learner Services.

Kirsty Copping, 18, from Sprowston is training to be a teaching assistant. Earlier this year she completed a Level 2 qualification in supporting teaching and learning run by Norfolk County Council Adult Education. As well as starting her first job in the profession at Sprowston Infants School, Kirsty is now doing a Level 3 apprenticeship diploma in supporting teaching and learning, at the end of which she will be a fully qualified teaching assistant.

Kirsty said: 'I didn't know what I wanted to do when I left school but I had done some work experience in a school and enjoyed that so I did some voluntary work at Sprowston Junior School, and they told me about the Adult Education diploma.

'I've learned loads on the course, all aspects of being a teaching assistant really, and made some good friends. My tutor has been so supportive and if I hadn't done the course I really don't think I would have got this job – I've only just started but I'm really enjoying it. I want to make this my career and hopefully train to be a teacher at some point in the future.

'I think people who make good teaching assistants need to enjoy working with children obviously but also be confident, determined and have a good sense of fun.'

Free four week Introduction to Supporting Teaching and Learning courses run by Adult Education are available across the county to people thinking about going into the teaching assistant profession.

The next courses start in November and January, call Heather on 01603 306566 or Kim on 01603 306590 for more information.