Gap Training Ltd

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Gap Training Ltd and Community Furniture Store help local unemployed and disabled people in Selby

Local volunteers who are disabled and unemployed are being given the opportunity to up-skill thanks to the efforts by Gap Training Ltd and the Community Furniture Store Selby, and funding provided by Leeds City College through the Local Response Fund and Skills Support for the Workforce.

In a local pioneering project Gap Training Ltd and charity Community Furniture Store Selby have developed, between them, a programme that gives the volunteers the skills and confidence to improve themselves, getting them back into education and employment.

Community Furniture Store Selby offers the volunteers a chance to get back into a routine, while developing skills in the workshops refurbishing and renovating furniture, which is then sold in the store. The programme is run by Shane Cooke, the volunteer co-ordinator, who fully understands the position a lot of these volunteers are in, “Less than 3 years ago, at the age of 47, I thought I was on the scrapheap. I came to Community Furniture Store as a volunteer, they saw something in me and gave me a chance, taking me on in the warehouse and as a van driver. Over the last eight months I have been given the opportunity to develop the current volunteer programme. I love it, it is my chance to give back and there are so many inspirational stories, the people who come and commit to this programme are amazing!”

Gap Training Ltd delivers training in Disability Awareness and Equality and Diversity, improving the learners’ knowledge and helping to develop reading and writing skills. Debbie Priestley, who delivers the training in Selby, says of the programme “This is a great programme, I am not aware of another that gives the volunteers as much in the same time frame. I like getting to know each person, their story, and how I can help them. I love to see their confidence and abilities develop, for some it is the first training they will have ever received and they have this idea that they cannot do it, however they all complete the training, it is a great feeling.”

The programme has been in place since December 2014 and has already delivered some pretty impressive results, with volunteers already finding employment and continuing into education.

Ryan Cook, who is autistic, has been going to the Community Furniture Store Selby since October 2014. In that time Ryan has developed his interpersonal communication skills and his confidence, allowing him to make eye contact and have conversations with people who he has only just met. He has also been able to develop practical skills, which he had not previously had, for example, sanding and painting furniture, and upholstering furniture. Ryan has also attended the Disability Awareness and Equality and Diversity training, provided by Gap Training Ltd, which he successfully completed. Ryan was very proud to complete the training and receive his certificates, the first he has ever received. Ryan’s carer is his mother, Diane, says “Ryan was depressed before he went to the Community Furniture Store, which has now lifted. He has been given such a wonderful opportunity where everyone treats him normally, having conversations directly with him. Ryan was very happy to do the training, and as they are his first certificates they are now up on the wall at home. As his carer this has made my life so much easier as he is happy now and has the confidence to do other things in his life, such as bowling.”

Shane Cooke giving Ryan Cook his
achievement certificate.

One of the volunteers who has progressed in to education is Liam Morley. Liam was one of the first to complete the programme in December, and on its completion Liam made the brave decision to embark on a major educational adventure, enrolling on an Access course which will enable him to go to University in September 2015 to train to become a Marine Biologist. Debbie Priestley, of Gap Training Ltd, said “It was amazing when Liam came back to tell us what he was doing and to thank us for our help; he was beaming ear to ear and was so proud of himself. Shane Cooke and I are proud of him and what he is achieving.”

Another success story is that of Nigel Murray, who attended the programme at the beginning of February. Nigel was a volunteer at the Community Furniture Store after being unemployed long term. His time on the programme gave him the chance to develop his skills, both in the workshops and in the warehouse. At the end of his time as a volunteer Nigel was offered a position with the Community Furniture Store Selby in the warehouse and on the delivery van. “I am grateful to the Community Furniture Store for giving me this opportunity, it is a great place to volunteer and work at and I am really enjoying it.” says Nigel.

The programme continues to go from strength to strength, with more training being added to the programme the volunteers undertake.

This is a great example of how a local charity and training company are working together to improve the local community, providing better trained and experienced people applying for jobs, all underpinned by the funding provided by Leeds City College.

Staff and Volunteers of Community Furniture Store, Selby

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