Three Southern Housing Group customers from the Isle of Wight were celebrated at a recent awards ceremony for adult learners.
On 16 June, the Isle of Wight Council Adult Community Learning Service hosted the Adult Learners’ Week Awards, which celebrate the achievements of adults from across the Island who had excelled since returning to study.
The awards were presented in five categories: Learning Through Arts, Crafts and Culture; Learning Within the Family; Learning Through Technology; Learning Within a Community Project; and Learning for Life and Work.
Three of the five award winners were customers of Southern Housing Group: Jackie Pullen won the Learning Through Technology Award, with Natalie Johns coming a close second, and Jodi Collet-Rogers took home the Learning for Life and Work Award.
How horses steered Jodi toward a new path
Jodi was nominated for an award by Bodster Equine Assisted Learning Centre, which helps people develop confidence and self-awareness through interacting with horses. Jodi suffered from anxiety and struggled to travel on public transport on her own. Since completing a course with Bodster, she now works in a pre-school. Her confidence and outlook have improved significantly, and she is now achieving things she had previously struggled with.
Jodi Collett-Rogers with her Learning for Life and Work Award
Digital Smart Start: financial and digital learning for life
Natalie Johns and Jackie Pullen were recognised for their achievements in the Digital Smart Start Course, a six week course designed and run by Southern Housing Group’s Louise Baugh.
Louise, a Financial Skills Officer, designed and delivered the course as part of her Southern Housing Group Aspire Course. She is hugely passionate about empowering people with the financial and life skills they need to achieve their aims and grow their confidence.
She said: “While thinking about how welfare reforms and benefits changes will affect our customers, the extent to which people didn’t have access to computers or knowledge of how to use them really hit home. With the introduction of universal credit in particular, where people will be receiving a monthly payment as opposed to weekly, it’s vital that people have the skills to manage their money effectively.
“Financial skills aren’t just about being able to do maths. More and more, obstacles to managing finances are related to not being digitally set up. For example, people need an email address and mobile phone to claim benefits, and soon the main contact people will have with benefits services will be online. I realised how useful it would be for our customers to learn financial and digital skills side by side.”
Louise developed the Digital Smart Start course in collaboration with her manager, Zoe Maurice, the Group’s Financial Skills Department Team Leader, and delivered it in partnership with the Isle of Wight Council Adult Community Learning.
The pilot course took place twice a week in February and March 2016. Participants attended classes on digital and financial skills covering online and Microsoft Office basics, including emailing, online banking, and online job searching.
The nine people who completed the course were awarded a digital qualification and got to keep the laptops that Southern Housing Group provided them for the course. They were also given up to 12 months’ internet access.
“It was a privilege to watch Natalie’s confidence grow”
Natalie Johns is a young mother of two and general needs customer of the Group. Louise nominated her for an Adults Learners’ Week Award after seeing how much the Digital Smart Start course increased her confidence and gave her a sense of motivation and direction that was previously missing.
Louise said: “Natalie was positive about the course from the beginning and her attitude to learning helped the group focus. I don’t think she knows how much she inspires others and her participation made it easier for others to engage.
“It was a privilege to watch Natalie’s confidence grow and see her take the initiative with her learning. The building we were training in displayed information on other courses and, without us knowing, she signed up for a second course. I was amazed how committed she was to improving her skills.
“Natalie is now focused on gaining the skills she needs to get into work. She doesn’t just want any job - she wants to make a difference to other people lives and is prepared to put in the time and effort to get the job she wants. I believe she can and she will.”
“Jackie told me she had achieved something she never thought possible”
A customer of one of the Group’s Care and Supporting Independence schemes, it had been 30 years since Jackie had set foot in a classroom, and Louise was impressed by how far she had come over the six week course.
Louise said: “Jackie embraced every part of the course. She had very little experience of computers and was relieved when the first lesson showed her how to turn it on - everything was new to her. She had not been in a classroom as a learner since she was a child and did not have any happy memories of school. In fact, all she could remember was not going, so at 46 years old, it was a massive step.
“Jackie picked things up very quickly and when she struggled, she quietly asked for help. I believe her honesty and the questions she asked helped others who were not brave enough to ask, and she really gained their respect through her actions and kindness.
“When Jackie gained her computer qualification, she told me she had achieved something she never thought possible and that it had helped her on her journey to completely transform her life. She now uses the computer every day and tells me her confidence is growing all the time. She’d now like to improve her maths and English and is about to register for another course.”
According to Jackie, Digital Smart Start has improved her life in multiple ways: “The course was fantastic – it helped me so much. I didn’t know anything about computers before, and now I do my banking online, I email, and I now keep in touch with my family on the mainland through Facebook. I would absolutely recommend it.”
Louise Bough (left), who designed and delivered the Digital Smart Start Course, with Jackie Pullen, winner of the Learning Through Technology Award
The Digital Smart Start course itself was recognised at the awards ceremony for its contribution to adult learning on the Isle of Wight, with Louise taking home the Learning within a Community Project Highly Commended Award.
Since the course, Louise has set her sights on a Level 3 Adult Education and Teaching qualification, which will help her with future group work, and with developing the Digital Smart Start course. She has kept in touch with those who took the course to make sure they have the ongoing support they need to achieve their goals.
Winners from the Adult Learners’ Week Awards 2016
For all enquiries, please contact:
Mary Weeks Communications Manager Southern Housing Group 0207 553 6841