GUEST COLUMN: Community learning offers endless opportunities, by Peter Rowley at West Notts College
If you asked anyone where West Notts College's provision was delivered, most people would say 'Derby Road', and some would mention specialist sites such as our engineering centre in Sutton or construction campus in Kirkby.
But what is perhaps less well-known is that we also deliver courses in more than 50 small venues across Mansfield and Ashfield to over 1,300 adults each year. This is our adult and community learning provision.
This provision has been running for many years and is accessed by a broad range of people. Learners have their own reasons for joining a course, such as enhancing their career prospects, learning a new skill or hobby, social inclusion or making that first, often difficult, step back into education. Courses range from first aid, photography, flower-arranging and crafts, to English, maths, IT skills, mindfulness and fitness, along with many more.
Our adult and community team liaise with local organisations and venues to plan and run suitable courses – visiting at the beginning and end of each course to offer learners support, advice and guidance where needed – with around 25 specialist tutors delivering these for us. Each team member is really passionate about what they do and enjoys nothing more than seeing learners develop their skills and confidence.
For some people, the thought of going to a large college site can be quite daunting. By having courses in small, local venues that are often familiar to our learners, we remove this barrier and make that first step much easier. Courses are for anyone over the age of 19 and there is no age limit.
More than a quarter of our community learners are retired, and only a few years ago we welcomed the college’s oldest-recorded learner onto one of our jewellery-making courses at the age of 95!
We also work with local groups and organisations to provide training and support for their clients, including Spectrum Wasp, Space Inclusive, MIND, Double Impact, Framework and NIDAS. Courses are tailored to meet their individual needs and complement the services they provide.
With thousands of people having accessed our community provision over the years, we have seen some truly life-changing outcomes. There was the young man who enrolled onto a basic cookery course at the homeless centre he was living at, and progressed to studying professional cookery qualifications at our Derby Road campus; the lady who saved a heart-attack victim’s life, using the CPR skills learnt on a first aid course; and the anxiety-sufferer who found it difficult to leave home, but plucked up the courage to attend a counselling course at a community venue and went on to study higher education at college.
The opportunities offered by community learning are endless, irrespective of age or personal circumstances. Once you’ve started the journey, the route you take is entirely in your hands.