Adult Learners’ Week Awards 2012
Adult Learners' Week (ALW) is an annual week-long national campaign each May to promote the benefits of adult learning and to celebrate the successes and achievements of adult learners and adult learning projects. Now in its 21st year and the UK’s largest learning campaign, ALW is organised by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), and part-funded by the European Social Fund.
A highlight of the week was the prestigious national awards ceremony at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London on Monday 14 May. The awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of people who have transformed their lives for the better, and include three national awards specifically for learning supported by the European Social Fund:
- ESF Outstanding Individual Learner
- ESF Learning Works
- ESF Inspiring Learning Project awards.
The ceremony was hosted by TV presenter Philippa Forrester. Business Secretary Vince Cable MP made a keynote speech and a message congratulating the winning learners and projects was sent by the Prime Minister David Cameron. ESF awards were presented by Mark Fisher, Strategy Director, Social Justice in the Department for Work and Pensions who also gave a short speech outlining the close links between ESF, Social Justice and the aims of Adult Learners’ Week.
ESF Outstanding Learner of the Year Award – Faye Garley
The national ESF Outstanding Learner of the Year Award was won by mother of two Faye Garley. Faye was made redundant from her warehouse job, and shortly afterwards received a twelve-month probation order for drink-driving. Following a 14-week Drink Impaired Drivers Programme, the Probation Service’s REACH project, funded by the ESF, helped her towards learndirect and Kettering Centre for the Unwaged where she completed Level 2 in Maths, a European Computer Driving Licence, an Introduction to Counselling course and British Sign Language courses. Faye then began volunteering and helped other users of the REACH programme back into learning, as well as helping out at a holiday club for children with learning difficulties.
These positive learning experiences inspired and helped her to get a job as a Support Worker for vulnerable adults. Faye is now a happy and confident person, working in a job that she loves and with a new outlook on life.
“With the encouragement and guidance of the REACH project and volunteering, this has turned out to be the most positive experience of my life,” says Faye.
ESF Learning Works Award – Louise McKenny
The national ESF Learning Works Award was won by Louise McKenny from Newquay, Cornwall. Louise was battling drug and alcohol addiction and was admitted to a treatment centre in 2009. She left with a new attitude to life, and after completing a training course with SHARE – an information, advice and guidance (IAG) service for young people – she volunteered with them for over a year, and gained an NVQ Level 3 in IAG.
Then as a client at Cornwall Neighbourhoods for Change (CN4C), an ESF-funded project, she learned employability skills at their Work Club and later became a volunteer. When tutors saw her potential, Louise became a tutor on CN4C’s New Work Programme, providing advice to other long-term unemployed clients.
With the help of the European Social Fund, Louise completed a Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector course to develop her skills as a tutor. She is currently studying for an Advanced Apprenticeship in Learning and Development and an Assessors course, and will begin a Certificate of Education in 2012.
“I cannot start to describe how much my life has changed in the past two and a half years,” said Louise, who added, “I feel like I am part of the world and have a purpose in life.”
Inspiring Learning Project Award – DAIN
The third ESF award was the Inspiring Learning Project Award, which was won by Digital Activist Inclusion Network (DAIN) in Nottingham. The project has been narrowing the digital divide since 2009, training 105 volunteer Digital Activists who have supported over 1,200 adults to improve their computer skills. DAIN is funded by the European Social Fund and led by the Workers’ Educational Association together with CEFET and other European organizations.
Under the project, each Digital Activist receives a 20 hour training course and then goes out into their community to pass on IT skills to people like themselves. The project builds strong partnerships with local organisations to make sure that excluded groups are reached, including women, young people not in education or training, ethnic minority communities and older people. As well as outreach in education centres, libraries and refugee centres, DAIN champions learning in non-traditional settings.
“I went to an allotment with a laptop and a dongle. We were sat on garden chairs searching the web,” said one Digital Activist.
Andria Birch, DAIN project manager said, “Our surveys show that DAIN changed people’s attitudes to technology and empowered them to go further, because this model enabled volunteers to find that individual hook that is relevant to the interests of each community member.”
Winners stories and films
- Winners’ stories (Adult Learners’ Week website) – includes films about the winners shown at the national award ceremony