Joint union project helps Somerset social enterprise improve lives and communities

The Union Learning Fund (ULF) project at Hinkley Point C, “Building a Learning Legacy”, has been supporting a not-for-profit social enterprise giving training and work experience in Somerset.

Somerset Care and Repair (SCR) brings empty homes across the county back into use, making them available to house those in greatest need. At the same time it provides work experience placements to volunteer trainees to help break down some of the barriers to learning and employment they may face.

SCR training and employment coordinator Sarah-Jane Shillito
and ULF project coordinator Samantha Mignano-Fricker

Its eight-week placements provide a range of construction skills, while its wood recycling centre provides further training opportunities to develop practical and teamwork skills, while boosting self-esteem. The aim is that after this initial introduction to the world of work, the volunteer trainees will go on to access formal learning and employment opportunities.

The ULF project is supporting SCR in two ways. ULF project coordinator Samantha Mignano-Fricker and SCR training and employment coordinator Sarah-Jane Shillito have developed a bespoke support package for the volunteer trainees and their supervisors. All site supervisors now have tablets loaded with a range of learning support materials to use onsite.

These include initial literacy and numeracy assessments as well as employability skills and “bite-size” learning modules. In addition, a new mobile printer means that they can print off certificates as soon as the trainees have completed the various modules.

Sarah-Jane said:

By having the tablets and the learning loaded onto them on site, we are able to introduce previously disengaged people into learning, which in turn will improve their job prospects and their progression onto further learning opportunities and/or employment."

In addition, the project is commissioning a film to introduce potential volunteer trainees to SCR. Sarah-Jane continues:

We have sometimes found that following a referral, a potential volunteer may fail to attend the initial meeting on site as nerves sometimes get the better of them."

The short video aims to alleviate some of their fears so they are more likely to attend the meeting. Sarah-Jane added:

This will help us to engage and help those potential volunteers that are furthest from the labour market. I think that continuous access to support from the joint union project will greatly improve the outcomes of those who are disadvantaged, improve their lives and the communities that we are working with."