Thursday, 5 June 2014

Learning is not just for school – it's for life

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Lifelong learning is at the heart of everything we believe at NEC. Learning at any stage of life can have an enormous impact on you, and the people around you. It can help you change career or get that promotion, support your children’s learning, improve your confidence and even be fun!

We were delighted this week to be invited to the East of England Adult Learners’ Week Awards, organised by WEA Eastern Region and hosted by West Suffolk College. The awards ceremony is a showcase of some of the best learning initiatives and inspirational learning stories from across the region, an opportunity for people whose lives have been changed by adult education to tell their stories, and to gain recognition for their remarkable achievements.

Adult Learners’ Week (ALW) is a celebration of adult learning in all of its forms–from the flexible and distance learning courses offered by NEC to the face-to-face courses offered by the WEA. Now in its 23rd year, ALW is coordinated by the National Institute of Adult and Continuing Education (NIACE) and is part of this year’s Festival of Learning, which aims to engage as many adults as possible and inspire them to learn. The awards are just one of several events taking place this year, including NEC’s Learning Challenge 2014, a series of free self-study courses.

After the opening remarks from Sue O’Gorman of NIACE, who reminded us that ALW is the longest running celebration of its kind, the evening kicked off with an interactive singing workshop from Voice cLoud, one of the joint winners of last year’s awards. Voice cLoud help people find their voice using music and signing to encourage independence, develop confidence and social interaction.

The awards were presented by Alex Dolan of BBC Look East, and told of some truly uplifting learning journeys. Winners included the K9 Project, which uses dogs to provide easy access to learning for some of the most vulnerable learners in Cambridgeshire. One of the project’s participants, Phil, also won an award. The project completely turned his life around, giving him the confidence and skills to both deliver a speech in front of a room full of people, and to secure a full time job–both things that felt out of reach before he engaged in learning.

A bad experience at school and leaving without any qualifications can hinder your prospects of getting a job, and leave you without confidence in your own abilities. Completing qualifications in order to realise ambitions also results in building confidence and a sense of self-worth for many people. There were several examples of this in action from amongst the winners, where gaining qualifications has really changed their lives and the lives of their families. Both Sam and Terrie struggled with literacy and numeracy, but being able to read has made a huge difference to both of them. Sam is now training to be a mechanic and Terrie is has secured a job and is training for a management role.

The evening was full of inspiration. We could go on,. but you can read details of all of the prize winners here.

In her closing speech, WEA’s CEO Ruth Spellman reminded us that learning brings people together and changes lives. We have seen some remarkable developments in adult learning since the WEA was founded in 1903–including the National Extension College–but we still need to encourage more people to get back into learning, whether that be by distance learning, evening classes or work-based learning. In the UK, just 20% of adults continue learning, whereas this figure across Europe is 60%.

Start your journey today: visit our website, take a look at the courses on offer from NEC and fit learning into your life!

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