The Reporter
Issue 491, 16 June 2003
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Scheme helps staff return to learn


Outward bound course participants
Like ducks to water - participants on the Outward Bound course at Semer Water, near Hawes

"The thought of going back to a classroom terrified me," explained Bernard Vickers. A painter and decorator in estate services and graduate of the Return to Learn (R2L) course, he is now a Unison work-based learning adviser, encouraging others to give learning a second chance.

Bernard completed the work-related R2L course seven years ago (see Reporter 394). Passionate about giving people a 'second bite of the cherry,' he’s now involved with the Learning for Life (L4L) fund and helps to run one of the many non-work related courses that ancillary, technical grade (A to C) and clerical staff (grades 1 to 3) can follow with the fund's support.

The L4L fund provides up to £125 towards the cost of any educational course from photography, sailing and computing to aromatherapy, fitness and Outward Bound, or even a degree. It aims to help staff get back into education. Bernard Vickers said: "When I was at school I couldn’t wait to get out of the doors. This scheme is about getting over the fear factor."

Bernard Vickers Encouraging others - Bernard Vickers

Plumber Barry Thornton is one of 250 staff who have benefited from L4L and he reckons people shouldn’t worry about trying to learn something new: "Some people think others will take the mickey, but everyone’s in the same boat. You all learn together. You see other people having a go and people encourage each other." The scheme worked as a useful springboard for Barry; he has now applied for a university course in humanities.

Taking a non-work related course can also help you at work. The Outward Bound course focuses on team work with tasks including map reading and problem solving. Managers of those taking part in L4L are also upbeat about the scheme. In a recent review of L4L, managers said that "increased confidence in social skills gained from participation on courses can help break down social barriers," and "the scheme can help with the feel-good factor - important in times of change."

L4L was set up by the University and Unison and is supported by Amicus. It was extended this year to include certain technical and clerical staff. Courses are taken in employees' own time. Students on the work-related R2L course are released from normal duties for 60 hours over a six month period to study topics including writing, researching, understanding and expressing points of view and working with numbers.

To find out more about the schemes and how to apply for R2L or L4L, visit one of the open days on July 2 or September 3 in the SDDU training room from 10.30am- 3.30pm or contact Eileen Barrett on ext 34619, email or Debbie Greenwood on ext 34098,


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