From education to employment

Pan London 2 beneficiary wins national award

Ex policeman retrains as gym instructor and wins national award





Paul McNeill was presented with the Outstanding Regional Learner of the Year Award for London at the Adult Learners’ Week National Awards Ceremony held on 19th May. He also received an award at the London Adult Learners’ Week Regional Award Ceremony.


Paul McNeill was presented with the Outstanding Regional Learner of the Year Award for London at the Adult Learners’ Week National Awards Ceremony held on 19th May. He also received an award at the London Adult Learners’ Week Regional Award Ceremony.

Paul, 41, found a new career as a Gym Instructor through vocational training with YMCAfit. After suffering from two strokes which effectively ended his career as a Metropolitan Police Officer and faced with unemployment as well as the prospect of spending the rest of his life on disability benefits, Paul decided to join a gym as part of his rehabilitation. This became the inspiration for a new career.

Paul had been out of learning for 20 years but says, “I decided that I would not lie down and accept an uncertain future… I still had the ability to move around although this had been limited, and I could read and write. I decided that I would have a try and prepare for another career path.”
He completed the demanding theory and practical training necessary to achieve his YMCAfit Gym Instructor Level 2 qualification and progressed to the Advanced Gym Instructor Level 3 qualification provided by YMCAfit through the Pan London 2 ESF Programme. Paul has now completed 70% of the training and recently achieved his Level 3 CYQ Exercise & Fitness Knowledge. He has gained part-time employment at his local gym, Next Generation Hornchurch, where he encourages other disabled people to improve their fitness and raises money for Rehab UK.
He comments that “The last few years… have shown me that age and disability need not be a barrier to learning new subjects…[learning] has directly led me to gaining paid employment and not retiring at 37.”
David Lammy, Minister for Skills, said, “I never fail to be inspired by the stories I hear about learner’s achievements. Paul’s hard work confirms my belief that improving your skills can be a life changing experience.”
Rachel Thomson, Senor Campaigns Officer at NIACE, said, “In spite of the fact this is the 17th annual Adult Learner’s Week we continue to be amazed by the quality of nominations we have received. Paul’s story is an indication of how learning can transform lives completely.”
Robin Gargrave, YMCAfit Executive Director stated “Congratulations to Paul for this deserved recognition by NIACE. YMCAfit is grateful to the Learning and Skills Council and European Social Fund for enabling us to deliver this programme which reflects our belief that everyone in society has a right to experience the health benefits of regular physical activity. Paul is an impressive role model and a shining example of what can be achieved in the face of adversity.”
For further information contact:
Katie Prangle, at ECOTEC’s Pan London O3 Team, on telephone 0207 921 3840 or email
Notes for editors
  1. The Adult Apprenticeships at Level 3 project, led by YMCAfit (3.1b) aims to up-skill 150 individuals (75% employed) to achieve a level 3 apprenticeship qualification in exercise and fitness. It provides employment support into the leisure sector and targets ethnic minorities, women and disabled people including work experience and job brokerage. For further information contact [email protected] or visit
  1. Adult Learners’ Week, 17th–23rd May 2008, is the largest annual celebration of adult learning in the UK. It is supported by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, the European Social Fund, learndirect, the National Learning and Skills Council, Ofcom – the Office of Communications, the Quality Improvement Agency, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and City and Guilds. More details at:
  1. Further information about the LSC Pan London ESF Programme 2, can be found at or can be obtained from the Pan London Objective 3 Team (0845 630 8699; [email protected]). The programme was launched in 2006 and has been funding 51 skills and employment projects since August 2006. The programme builds on the Pan London 1 round which ended in December 2006 and funded 66 projects helping over 20,000 Londoners; for further information, see contact details above. Both programmes are managed by ECOTEC on behalf of the London Region Learning and Skills Council (LSC).
  1. The LSC exists to make England better skilled and more competitive. It is responsible for ensuring the availability of high-quality education and training for everyone. It has a single goal: to improve the skills of England’s young people and adults to world class standards. Its vision is that young people and adults in England have knowledge and skills matching the best in the world and are part of a truly competitive workforce. It works nationally, regionally and locally to deliver this ambition on behalf of learners and employers. For further information, visit: and for any media enquiries about the LSC, please contact Lynn McSweeney (([email protected] T: 020 7904 0663).
  1. The European Social Fund (ESF) is one of four Structural Funds designed to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the European Union. The new 2007-2013 ESF programme, which is making £324 million of funding available in London to extend employment opportunities and develop a skilled and adaptable workforce, has recently been launched. The programme has two main priorities.
· Extending employment opportunities – by supporting projects to tackle barriers that unemployed and disadvantaged people face in finding work.
· Developing a skilled and adaptable workforce – by supporting projects to train people who do not have the basic skills and Level 2 and 3 qualifications needed in the workplace.
ESF money is awarded to applicant organisations that successfully tender to deliver activity. Most ESF money in England is distributed to projects through the Learning and Skills Councils, Jobcentre Plus and other organisations (for example, some Regional Development Agencies and local authorities). These bodies are responsible for finding the match funding under a system known as ‘co-financing’ that enables successful organisations to receive 100% funding for their projects.
The total financial value of the 2000-2006 ESF programme in London (which is running until July 2008) is £486 million. The LSC in London is responsible for £285 million of this funding. Through the current round of projects it is funding (2005-2008), the LSC in London has assisted around 157,000 individuals to date, helping more than 84,000 people to gain qualifications and over 5,800 unemployed people into work.
  1. ECOTEC is an international company providing services in research, consultancy and programme management with over 200 people working from offices in Birmingham, Brussels, Cardiff, Leeds, London, Madrid, Manchester and Turkey. The company works for a wide range of public and private sector clients throughout the UK and Europe. ECOTEC is a member of the ECORYS group with 18 offices across 10 European countries. Further information is available on

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