Need a job? Take a trip to the learning shop

Braintree and Witham Times: Learning centre volunteers Stavros Clarke and Mark Wright with Dee Bond and David Kerridge Learning centre volunteers Stavros Clarke and Mark Wright with Dee Bond and David Kerridge

GETTING a job is tough.

Statistics present the harsh reality, with youngsters, in particular, struggling to get on the employment ladder.

Often, hundreds of people apply for every job. Employment prospects suffered another blow when TBG Learning announced it will be closing its Colchester, Tendring and Witham centres in March as Government funding has not been renewed.

The group has offered various courses, including some in the areas of construction, hair and beauty and hospitality.

But help is at hand. Colchester Institute runs the Learning Shop service across north Essex to help improve people’s job chances. It helps the unemployed and those who wish to peruse an alternative career path, but do not have the skills.

It offers courses in IT, English and maths, as well as helping with CVs and interview techniques.

Dee Bond, Colchester branch manager, said: “People come with low self-esteem and low confidence.

They go out with not only qualifications, but their whole demeanour has changed. They make friends here. People are so happy to help each other. Sometimes it is the last chance saloon for a lot of older learners."

“I love my job. It is so rewarding.”

The Learning Shop was set up ten years ago as a joint venture by a number of organisations, including Colchester Council and Essex University. Changes in funding meant Colchester Institute took over the full service in August 2011. As well as Colchester, the institute offers facilities in Clacton,DovercourtandWitham.

Users are referred by organisations such as the Jobcentre, although people can just walk in off the street.

The Learning Shop works alongside organisations, such as Signpost and Jobcentre Plus, to offer the best advice and help possible.

Last year, more than 200 people went though the Colchester shop.

The centre runs 13 courses at different ability levels.

David Kerridge, employability and skills managers, said: “With the changing employment market and the recession, it has meant a lot of people have to reskill. We’re trying to meet people’s employment needs. We’re here to improve their opportunities and to progress on to further and higher education.

“It’s not just young people who are struggling. On average, people here are in their forties.

“Employers want higher levels of skills than 15 years ago. They want multiple skills, even in quite basic jobs and that is where we come in.”

The courses combine independent learning, which is done on computers, and small group sessions.

Some of the work can be done from outside the centre, as parts are available online.

Learners are asked to attend two sessions a week and the courses take about twelve weeks.

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