All 20 had previously been long-term unemployed and were struggling to find work when they were referred onto the government’s flagship Work Programme with sencia,the employment arm of Prime Contractor Interserve Learning & Employment in the West Midlands. sencia were able to give them all specialist back to work training, advice and guidance including accredited training courses.

Centre Manager for sencia, Kerry Clayton said: “We have a wide variety of people coming through our doors, of all ages, backgrounds and with varying levels of work experience and qualifications. Some are further away from the labour market than others, and we try to tailor our service to each person to ensure what we’re doing is right for them. For example, if someone has been out of work for quite a number of years, we will coach them and offer training and qualifications to help build up their confidence before putting them forward for a job interview.”

Tutor Debra Barnett commented: “I run a number of training courses at our centre, and we’ve put many of our Work Programme customers through NCFE-accredited units. While we’ve had over 200 people successfully achieve their NCFE qualifications, all of whom I’m really proud of, we decided to hold a certificate ceremony and invited the 20 who I believe had gone that extra mile and shown tremendous effort in getting their qualifications.”

The group, whose ages range from 19 to 54, not only received their certificates on the day, they also got to meet their local MP. Mr Flello congratulated them on achieving their various NCFE Employability Skills Certificates.

Debra added: “Some individuals successfully completed more than ten different units – and achieved a level 1 and Level 2, which are equivalent to GCSEs. Some of my students were people who had struggled at school and had left with little or no formal qualifications. One of the group is a lady who is 80% deaf, that’s a big adversity to overcome, but she did it! It’s a fantastic start on their journey back to work!”

“The sencia team have managed to find six of our ‘class of 2012’ jobs in a wide variety of industries including catering, retail, business administration and even pottery – well it is the home of Wedgwood after all! And we’re hoping to get the whole group back to work over the next few months, in fact 60% of customers who have completed the NCFE units have gained meaningful employment.”

Keith who is one of the students has done particularly well because he has dyslexia, and found it a major barrier whilst he was at school and even more so when it came to finding and staying in a job. Through patient coaching, Debra helped him to achieve his Level 1 Employability Units, and he is now progressing onto Level 2.

Keith told us: “With my dyslexia I was ready to give up, I didn’t think I’d be able to achieve anything. Luckily Debra didn’t give up on me and I’ve now got some real qualifications under my belt and feel much more confident. I can’t thank Debra enough!”