From education to employment

Students gain employability skills as part of UKSE funded environmental project

Young people from a special educational needs school have gained valuable employability skills thanks to a work experience project supported by business lender UKSE.

Twelve students aged between 16 and 18 from Abbey Hill Academy and College in Stoke-on-Trent built up practical employability skills which they can take into the workplace through a project run by environmental charity Groundwork West Midlands and funded by UKSE.

The social impact funder, which works with companies across the West Midlands, has supported Groundwork to help students regenerate an area at a country park to develop skills through hands-on work experience.

The students completed six sessions at Silverdale Country Park, near Newcastle-under-Lyme, where they took part in a range of activities including creating a home for birds, tree popping, coppicing, fence building, pathway repairs and the planting of 600 trees.

The sessions were run by Groundwork community project officers and park rangers and provided students with an increased knowledge of the environment together with practical skills to manage outdoor spaces which they can use in the workplace.

Providing strategic loan and equity packages of up to £1m to generate growth, create local job opportunities and bolster the economy, UKSE’s local team based in Cannock was recently set up to support SMEs across Birmingham, the Black Country, Coventry, Staffordshire and Telford.

UKSE regional executive Mike Lowe commented:

“It has been great to see the young people develop valuable life and practical skills which will benefit them as they embark on their future careers.

“UKSE’s main aim is to help businesses to grow and prosper for the benefit of the community and the partnership with Groundwork really brings this ethos to life.”

UKSE is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tata Steel UK Limited with a mission to enable and encourage businesses and the people behind them to create jobs, grow and prosper, within communities affected by current or historic changes in the steel industry and its jobs.

Located on the former Silverdale Colliery, Silverdale is an 83-hectare park owned by the Land Trust and managed by Groundwork West Midlands.

Groundwork land and environment manager Melissa Underwood said:

“It has been amazing to see their confidence grow as they have developed over the sessions. The smiles on the pupils’ faces have made it all worthwhile.”

Darren Greensmith, vocational pathways manager at Abbey Hill Academy and College, said:

“The pupils have built their confidence and developed new skills which they would never have got otherwise. The sessions have enabled us to develop opportunities around employability that will be important for their futures.

“One of the students is now interested in potentially becoming an arborist, so we can explore options for internships based on the experience he has gained.

“We have had the opportunity to work alongside experienced outdoor staff, which they would not normally get. They are more likely to undertake outdoor tasks with the confidence to see them through.”

One 18-year-old student said:

“I have learned something from every experience. The sessions have helped my mental and physical health as well as my confidence. I have benefitted from being outdoors and doing these tasks.”

UKSE supports the local economy by making equity investments, ensuring management stays in control of the business and offers a flexible exit policy. Unsecured loans up to £200,000 are also available, often without the need for personal guarantees.

UKSE provides investment in a range of scenarios including business acquisitions, management buy-outs, company expansions or the purchase of new equipment. Since it was established in 1975, UKSE has invested over £115m, supporting 8,000 businesses, stimulating the creation of an estimated 83,000 new jobs.

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