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Woman praises West Suffolk College and Citizens Advice West Suffolk employability course




A woman who found herself on universal credit after the coronavirus pandemic forced her business to close said an employability course involving West Suffolk College and Citizens Advice West Suffolk has been a life-changer.

Karen Smart, 58, of Stoke by Clare, used to run a health business before lockdown meant all her work immediately stopped and she was left needing financial support.

She found out about a three-week employability course at West Suffolk College that offers ongoing training as well as a six-month position as a volunteer working for Citizens Advice and signed up.

Tony Howard and Carol Eagles from the Citizens Advice Bureau, Karen Smart and Ben Rowlinson, lecturer in skills for employment at West Suffolk College. Picture: West Suffolk College.
Tony Howard and Carol Eagles from the Citizens Advice Bureau, Karen Smart and Ben Rowlinson, lecturer in skills for employment at West Suffolk College. Picture: West Suffolk College.

The aim of the course is participants end up with a full-time placement with Citizens Advice after the six months, and Karen said she could see herself forging a new career in the industry.

“Before the course and this programme, my confidence was very low,” she said. “It was the kick-start I needed. This experience has been a life changer and has made me rethink my direction completely.”

Karen was one of six people to join the six-month ‘Community Challenge’ course, run by Michelina Partridge who is training supervisor at Citizens Advice West Suffolk.

Karen Smart. Picture: West Suffolk College.
Karen Smart. Picture: West Suffolk College.

Michelina said: “It has been a pleasure working with the West Suffolk College students and watching their knowledge and skills develop.

"Volunteering for Citizens Advice is so interesting.

"It gives the students confidence, and a lot of job satisfaction to know that they are helping people to solve real issues that are impacting on their lives."

Harry Bryant, 21, of Norton, is also just about to complete the course and he said it had really helped his communication skills.

"The highlight of working at Citizens Advice has been the potential for development," he said.

"It’s given me support and it’s allowed me to help others.”

Deborah Barton is the head of Adult Skills and Employability at West Suffolk College.

She said: "This has been a brilliant community project that has helped students of all ages develop transferable skills that will hopefully enable them to get the job of their dreams.

"Hearing the positive impact that this programme has had on people like Karen and Harry is why I enjoy working in education so much.

"I’d like to congratulate everyone involved and thank Citizens Advice for their amazing support.”

Citizens Advice West Suffolk has already received funding from a legacy to enable the same scheme to be run again in Mildenhall and Brandon in September for twelve adults.

The College is now accepting enquiries for its second phase. For more details about how to apply, you can visit: www.wsc.ac.uk

News from our universities, local primary and secondary schools including Ofsted inspections and league tables can be found here.

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