WEA Scotland Director  e-brief: May 2022

Content: 

This e-brief provides a snapshot of the work WEA Scotland has achieved over the last six months. 

The report is split by location and the three objectives for our work. These are to; improve the skills profile of adults with low or no qualifications; reduce the number of adults from disadvantaged communities living in poverty; and improve the health and wellbeing of adults from disadvantaged communities. The locations are split as follows: 

-    National 
-    Aberdeen
-    Edinburgh, including Fife & Lothian 
-    Falkirk 
-    Glasgow and Ayrshire 
-    Highlands 
-    North East 

National 

Outcome 1: Improve the skills profile of adults with low or no qualifications

Across Scotland we deliver employability programmes where learners are given support, both in a one-to-one and group setting. 

In a group setting, where learners can benefit from peer support, learners will build generic employability skills on topics such as literacy, numeracy, confidence building, and digital skills. This development is then underpinned by one-to-one support for learners with additional needs, such as those with disabilities, dyslexia, learning difficulties or those who are survivors of historical abuse. The impact of these courses can be found under each region. 

We also run a Personal Assistant Network, which provides a range of online courses and events to enhance the knowledge and skills of those on the programme. In the Personal Assistants Network, 153 learners have achieved a range of online awards in health and social care and significantly increased their knowledge skills and practice. Subjects they have tackled include, challenging behaviour, communications, dementia care, infection control, person centred care, and safeguarding principles of care. 

Lastly, across Scotland we work with a range of trade unions, including STUC and SUL, to deliver a range of employability and upskilling programmes – such as National Level 3 Award from SQA. Through this work, almost 100 learners reported improvements to their skills and capabilities. 


Outcome 2: Reduce the number of adults from disadvantaged communities living in poverty.

Across our programmes, virtually every learner reports that their skills knowledge and capabilities have been enhanced. This makes it more likely that they will: if in work get a better higher paying job, or if out of work, will progress into employment. 

For those who do not get into employment immediately, many opt to progress into higher levels of study – taking themselves one step closer to employability. 

We also provide Financial First Aid workshops, this includes leaflets that provide information to learners beyond the course, so that they have a source of ongoing reference on how to manage their money.

Our ESOL (English for Speakers of other Languages) projects across Scotland focus on employability skills. This includes topics such as CV preparation and interviews – as well as functional/practical language skills, such as ESOL for Driving Theory. The aim is to upskill learners and support them to become independent enough that they can move into work.  

The profile of our Personal Assistants Network continues to grow. We are seeing more personal assistants joining and engaging with us at events. We are also seeing more employers using the network to source PA services.

Within the Personal Assistants project, we are proactively building more information on each assistant’s skillset and acting as a broker to make them more aware of emerging employment opportunities. We have also worked hard to ensure personal assistants have a secure wage. The WEA worked alongside the Scottish Government and other partners to secure a £500 pandemic thank you bonus for each personal assistant. In addition, the Personal Assistants Project partners with Living Wage Scotland, were able to secure the minimum Living Wage for Personal Assistants. 

Outcome 3: Improve the health and wellbeing of adults from disadvantaged
communities.

Across our programmes, we have received feedback that by continuing to deliver online learning we have supported learners to combat isolation and also provided a structure and focus for people. For example, learners on the journaling courses reported they reversed adverse changes in their mental health and reduced anxiety during the courses.

In addition, many ESOL course learners reported that their course helped them make new friends and connect with their community. Many of our ESOL courses are delivered in a social context such as a leaner café to make this easier. As beyond the learning, it is the company of the learning group and the recurring wider social interaction that our learners value. 

Aberdeen

Outcome 3: Improve the health and wellbeing of adults from disadvantaged communities.

In Aberdeenshire over 100 learners attended the Reminiscence courses. Learners on these courses reported that they gained a stronger sense of purpose, that it gave them contact with the outside world, and that it prevented them from feeling isolated. The accumulative effect of this is improvements in their confidence and self-esteem. 

Similarly, the Journaling and Visual Journaling courses attracted similar feedback with over 75% of learners on the Journaling course and 100% of learners on the Visual Journaling course noting improvements to their wellbeing.

Falkirk and Grangemouth

Outcome 1: Improve the skills profile of adults with low or no qualifications.

To improve the skills profile of adults with low or no qualifications, the WEA has delivered job clubs in Falkirk and Grangemouth. The job clubs focus on personal development and employability skills. There is also additional literacy interventions for those with dyslexia and one-to-one support for those with specific challenges.

Across the Falkirk and Grangemouth employability programmes, 11 learners reported greater confidence in their interviewing capability, nine learners reported improvements to their digital skills, and seven learners completed their Adult
Achievement Award. Others progressed to further study and two learners have secured a job.

Outcome 2: Reduce the number of adults from disadvantaged communities living in poverty.

In Falkirk and Grangemouth we aim to support learners out of poverty through new sources of referral from CLD and food banks partnerships. 

In addition, through our courses in Grangemouth, two learners have secured jobs and a further three learners have secured volunteering positions. In Falkirk two learners have also gained employment.

Outcome 3: Improve the health and wellbeing of adults from disadvantaged communities.

Of the 45 learners in the Falkirk and Grangemouth Job Clubs, all have highlighted the positive impacts to their wellbeing – which has resulted from their increase in confidence and capabilities, meeting new people, and the shared experience of trying new things that they know will improve their life. 

Glasgow and Ayrshire
 
Outcome 1: Improve the skills profile of adults with low or no qualifications. 

In Glasgow we have been delivering Survival English classes to enable new migrants and refugees to take the first steps towards employment. These are tailored to improve the skills profile of adults with low or no qualifications. 

All our classes are underpinned by initial language assessments and we ensure learners have the right learning based on their needs and capabilities. To date, 13 learners have progressed from their survival English classes to NTTF courses. 

Outcome 2: Reduce the number of adults from disadvantaged communities living in poverty.

To reduce the number of adults from disadvantaged communities living in poverty, the Glasgow team delivers a set of workshops that support learners to connect and work with their community.

One such workshop is our Glasgow Housing Struggles workshops. These have supported learners to become active citizens helping their communities. For example many learners on the courses have organised themselves to campaign for more affordable rent for all. 

Outcome 3: Improve the health and wellbeing of adults from disadvantaged communities.

To Support the health and wellbeing of adults from disadvantaged communities the WEA has a variety of courses. This includes our Poetry Projects in Glasgow, Journaling for Wellbeing for Men's Shed groups, and Visual Journaling for NHS staff and healthcare professionals.
In addition, our ESOL provision across Glasgow supports the health and wellbeing of our students. 100 individual learners have said the course was good for their health and wellbeing, while a further 9 learners said it helped a little. The vast majority of learners also reported that the classes made them feel safe.

Edinburgh 

Outcome 2: Reduce the number of adults from disadvantaged communities living in poverty.

Supporting learners to access higher wage jobs is one way the WEA helps reduce the number of adults from disadvantaged communities living in poverty. 

One way we do this is through our Lothian ESOL for Health and Social Care and ESOL for Workplace courses. These are delivered to learners who are often in low or/and unstable income. The courses enables them to apply for higher skill and higher wage jobs by giving them the skills and confidence necessary. Two learners from the Lothian ESOL for Health and Social Care course have gained employment.

Outcome 3: Improve the health and wellbeing of adults from disadvantaged communities.

The WEA offers a diverse range of provision across Scotland. In Fife and Lothian this includes Book Talks, Creative Writing, Green Issues, Journaling for Wellbeing, and Neuro Diversity Awareness courses.

Over 100 learners have engaged in Fife and the Lothian and all have reported that the courses have positively contributed to their health and wellbeing and that they have prevented isolation and loneliness.


Highlands

Outcome 1: Improve the skills profile of adults with low or no qualifications

In the Highland and Kilmarnock regions, we have delivered job clubs similar to those in Falkirk and Grangemouth. These focus on personal development and employability skills – with additional literacy interventions for those with dyslexia or specific challenges. In addition, the provision in Highland and Kilmarnock has a greater focus on ICT access and digital skills development. This is to support learners for both life and work. 

Likewise, our ESOL classes in the Highlands and North East combine language skills training with employability digital skills development.

A study skills for SVQs provide pre-study employability training for those about to embark on SVQs in the workplace. In Highland four learners have achieved SQA awards, three are currently studying for higher level qualifications. We have also secured 35 devices to support digital access/capability.

Within ESOL Highland courses, six learners have achieved a National Level 3 Award from SQA. In addition, 82% of learners said classes have significantly improved their language capabilities and 95% have said they liked learning online. 


Outcome 2: Reduce the number of adults from disadvantaged communities living in poverty.

Much of the work we do is supporting learners to gain the skills and confidence to upskill themselves. For example, in the Highland ESOL programme, one learner has been supported to produce leaflets to promote his gardening business. This has already secured more clients and work so that his business is improving. Another learner completed a Food safety certificate in addition to their language skills. This has resulted in opportunities to apply for jobs in kitchens and hotels where there are numerous vacancies.

In both instances, the WEA was able to facilitate an individual learner to a better job, thus improving their life chances. 

Across our Highland provision nine learners have secured a job as have a further six learners in Kilmarnock

North East

Outcome 1: Improve the skills profile of adults with low or no qualifications.

Like in the Highlands, many of the North East courses combine language skills training with employability and digital skills development – in order to prepare learners for both life and work.

In the North East, 98% of learners have reported that classes have significantly improved their language capability. In addition, the WEA secured 10 devices to support learner’s to develop their digital skills, which has resulted in a step change to the learner’s language capabilities and F4 learners have progressed to higher levels of study.

In addition, our Reach Out programme in the North East provides a varied programme, which includes indoor and outdoor activities. These aim to develop individual’s skills profile and personal competencies. 

Within the Reach Out programme, 62 learners actively engaged in the programme, with many learners engaged in multiple activities and classes resulting in 150 enrolments. This is largely down to the level of engagement and support activity through online and telephone support, improved use of social media, establishing informal networks of peer support across Scotland, and improved engagement with other partners in the sector

Outcome 2: Reduce the number of adults from disadvantaged communities living in poverty.

To reduce the number of adults in poverty, it is vital learners are provided with the skills and resources to understand and be able to manage their finances. In the North East, we deliver Financial First Aid workshops, which equip learners with the knowledge and skills to manage their finances better, steer clear of unaffordable debt, and maximise their entitlement to any benefits they might receive.

Outcome 3: Improve the health and wellbeing of adults from disadvantaged communities.

Reach Out in the North East, includes courses in; gardening, art, football and walking. These activities deliver improvements to both physical and mental health. 

In extensive feedback from the Reach Out project, learners described the health benefits of the programme as life changing – as well as supporting them to improve their fitness, reduce alcohol reliance, providing structure, supporting them to meet and understand new people, and improving mood and combating depression.

For many learners on the employability programmes, learning is cited as contributing as much to health and wellbeing as it enhancing their skills and knowledge. In particular, digital learning is cited by many as offering real mental health benefits and preventing isolation, which would have otherwise occurred across the pandemic.

Ray McCowan

Director (WEA Scotland)

           

Download Previous e-briefs below:-

Download the May 2022 e-brief 

Download the January 2022 e-brief 

Download the November 2021 e-brief

Download the September 2021 e-brief

Download the August 2021 e-brief

Download the May 2021 e-brief

Download the March 2021 e-brief

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