Inspiring Festival of Learning award winners 2024 honoured

Twelve individuals and organisations were celebrated for showing how adult learning can change lives

Twelve individuals and organisations were celebrated for showing how adult learning can change lives

A single mother who retrained as a carpenter, a life turned around by GP-prescribed learning and a bakery school for unemployed refugees have all won awards at this year’s Festival of Learning.

The festival, run by Learning and Work Institute (L&W), is a long-running annual celebration of adults who have used learning to transform their lives.

Its twelve award winners include both individuals and organisations that highlight how lifelong learning can offer “endless possibilities,” said Stephen Evans, L&W’s chief executive.

He added: “We know from our annual adult participation in learning survey that adults in England have a greater appetite for learning than ever – and that they’re investing billions of pounds’ worth of time and money on their own futures.

“On the eve of the general election, we’re calling on the next government to meet that ambition from individuals with its own higher ambition, achieved by getting employers training, helping people into learning, and building a better, more joined-up skills system.”

The single-mother carpenter

This year’s ‘new directions’ award winner, Shez Grigg, is a single mother who spent a decade working in food retail before turning to a career in carpentry and joinery after studying at Bolton College.

Aged 29, she enrolled on a construction multi-skills course, which she completed alongside a full-time job and caring for her daughter. She went on to gain a level 2 diploma in carpentry and joinery.

Finding a job in the “male-dominated industry” was difficult, but she now has a full-job which has had a “completely transformative” impact on her life.

She said: “I’m constantly challenged and inspired by the work I do, finding fulfilment and pride in every project.

“It’s not only given me a deep sense of purpose, but a good work and life balance, with structured hours that allow me to spend more time with my daughter.”

Paul Eeles, chief executive of award sponsor Skills and Education Group, said the award shows it is “never too late” to try something different and develop new skills.

GP-prescribed learning

A learner who struggled with a “chaotic and unmanageable lifestyle” turned her life around partly thanks to courses prescribed by her GP.

Angie Collard won the ‘return to learning’ award after taking five courses with the Bournemouth Churches Housing Association learning service including personal wellbeing, self-care techniques and chi gong, a meditation technique.

She described herself as a school “drop out” without qualifications, but is now thinking about applying to study at college or university.

Angie added: “Along with having a sense of purpose, my horizons have broadened, and I strongly feel that I am a useful and productive member of my community.”

Other celebrated learners include Susannah Goulding, who won the ‘learning for health’ award for studying art at City Lit after being diagnosed with incurable metastatic cancer.

‘Learning for work’ award winner Wayne Hardman is a former painter decorator who retrained for a site coordinator role in the rail industry after finding himself out of work during the pandemic.

Awards for organisations

Organisations that won awards include Breadwinners, a charity that aims to support refugees and asylum seekers into work through a bakery that sells bread on market stalls and wholesale.

The London and Brighton-based charity, which won the ’employer’ award, says it has helped more than five hundred refugees and young people seeking asylum by providing them with work experience, training and personal mentors.

Similarly, Code Your Future won the ‘learning with technology’ award for helping more than 250 marginalised adults into work through its offer of free technology and soft skills training.

The BEGIN project, set up by Nottingham College, won the ‘president’ award for creating a “one-stop-shop” for English as a Second Language learners which coordinates courses across the city to reduce waiting lists.

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