Learning centre partnership inspires local learners

A successful learning centre partnership between the Community trade union and Sheffield’s ShipShape Health and Wellbeing Centre has engaged dozens of new learners over the past six months since it was launched at the end of 2019. The new ShipShape Community Learning Hub was set up with the help of the Union Learning Fund (ULF).

Anchor organisation ShipShape is a well-established fixture in the Sheffield community, helping people improve their health and wellbeing through free and low-cost one-to-one and group sessions at its centre in Sharrow and in outreach venues across the city. ShipShape works with some of the most vulnerable members of the community.

“We’re very much about helping people to live healthier lives in their communities through practical and creative ways,” explains ShipShape CEO Tanya Basharat.

But while Tanya and her team had long been interested in adding learning into the mix of services at ShipShape to meet the demand voiced by the local community at their co-production workshops, they hadn’t been able to find a suitable partner to work with – until Community made it possible.

It was when Community National Organiser Sidra Nisa started attending ShipShape’s partnership network meetings that the two organisations began to explore the potential of working together.

Community Learning Organiser Hannah Smith worked with ShipShape’s Publicity Administrator Iram Fareen to set out a clear learning strategy to engage people. Consequently, dozens of learners have accessed English literacy, digital skills, handwriting and other courses.

Iram has now completed her TUC Stage 1 Union Learning Representative course, becoming the union’s first ULR in a community setting.

“The training was a great leap forward because it bridged some of the gaps we had not envisioned,” Tanya says.

The digital and literacy courses that launched last autumn were a huge success, with the first group of learners presented with their certificates by Sheffield Lord Mayor Tony Downing, who officially opened the hub last December alongside Community General Secretary Roy Rickhuss and union National Executive Council member Dougie Fairbairn.

“A huge congratulations to Community union and the training providers who worked together to form this partnership to develop the skills movement, and in particular digital literacy. It is great to see people come together to help each other learn; I just wish there were many more places like this set up across the city,” Tony said.

Roy Rickhuss emphasised how the economy was changing through the fourth industrial revolution.

“It is clear that workers are even more likely to be over-skilled or under-skilled by 2030. Through government, unions and communities working together, we can support more people to learn and help shift the mindsets of the population on skills and training,” Roy said.

“We know that we have to help people who are in work but also those who are working in the community. Learning and skills are crucial for economic growth and for social justice, and as a union we have launched a commission to look into how technology is influencing and changing our daily life”.

Roy Rickhuss speaking at the Shipshape learning centre launch

Roy Rickhuss speaking at the learning centre launch last December, alongside Shipshape CEO Tanya Basharat.

“We are pleased to work with ShipShape, and our aim through provisioning the learning centre partnership is that Community members and ShipShape clientele have the skills to fulfil their current and future personal, social and employment needs,” Roy said.

After the launch, one of the learner’s daughter’s phoned Tanya crying tears of gratitude about how the course had changed her mum. “She said her mum was speaking more at home, more confident about doing things for herself, going to the local shops independently rather than relying on others all the time – she gained this confidence, simply by attending her classes and being given the opportunity,” Tanya says.

Tanya says working in partnership has always been ShipShape’s strength. “We are delighted to work with Community to ignite a curiosity for learning and help people gain qualifications,” she says.

And Sidra feels very happy with the way Community has contributed to help set up the new learning hub. “We are delighted more people can have access to free, high quality courses with a focus on functional skills like literacy, numeracy and digital skills. These skills are valuable and sought after for all kinds of jobs. We know that 82% of all job vacancies require digital skills, and this number continues to increase,” she mentions.

“Not only do Community members have a point where they can come and learn but also the wider community – those people who need it more than anyone else – now have access to education and lifelong learning and skills development,” she says.

If you would like to know more about how we can help establish a learning centre partnership in your workplace or community, please get in touch with the Community Learn team.

If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at servicecentre@community-tu.org or on 0800 389 6332.

To join Community, visit here. 

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