Housing provider Karbon Homes has transformed one of its premises on Stanley Front Street into a skills hub to support local residents back into work.
The Foundations Skills Hub opened its doors last week and is available to Karbon and non-Karbon customers living in Stanley and the surrounding areas of North Durham.
Residents can learn and build their confidence and skills by accessing a host of services all under one roof from digital skills coaching and literacy and numeracy tuition, to wellbeing support and employment advice.
The service is free to access and is being delivered by Karbon’s Foundations for Life team and supported by many of Karbon’s partners who will deliver training and advice from the hub, by using some of the on-site facilities.
External funding has been provided for the delivery of the digital and foundations skills by the North Durham Community Led Local Development (CLLD), using structural funds from Europe, which supports local development projects to increase employment and skills and social enterprise.
Due to a number of structural issues, the building stood empty for quite some time. It was previously known as The Store, a Derwentside Homes asset which become part of Karbon as part of a merger in 2017.
Karbon has invested in Stanley front street to transform the Foundations Skills Hub, with support from Durham County Council’s Regeneration & Economic Development fund; and the works were carried out by contractor, Meldrum Construction Services.
At the entrance of the newly refurbished premises is a children’s area or somewhere where residents can sit and relax with a book to boost their literacy skills.
There are some enclosed booths for private meetings or one-to-one sessions with members of the Foundations for Life Team such as employment advisors and the foundations tutor and digital coaches.
There is a ‘digital area’ for customers to improve their digital skills and confidence online. There is also a work and interview wear area shop to help residents prepare for interviews and starting work.
Suzanne Jobson, Foundations for Life manager at Karbon, said: “We are so excited to unveil this new facility.
The whole building is about helping people to break down some of the barriers they face and help them improve their skills and confidence to make a success of their journey into, or back, to work.
“The service is available to anyone who needs help or advice whether this is to learn new skills and qualifications, improve their digital skills or just simply feel more confident in themselves and get them ready for work.
“Our building will complement other fantastic services and support available in our community, and we are already confident some will utilise the space to bring their services to the front street. Since COVID-19, the service is more important than ever.”
The building is fully accessible and equipped with ICT and free WiFi.
There are desks and screens where residents and partners can work from, and fully equipped training rooms.
Karbon has also partnered with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Durham Works to run it as a Youth Hub.
At the back of the premises is a training room where more formal training can be delivered. This is agile space so it can be transformed and utilised by the community and partners.
There are also two meeting/appointment rooms where residents can sit somewhere privately and prepare for interviews or boost their literacy and numeracy skills but, they are not currently available to use until it is safe to do so after the pandemic.
Karbon’s Silver Talk service will also be taking up residence. This is a telephone befriending service which has more than tripled in the last six months and is free to residents aged 55 and over to reduce loneliness and isolation.
The service, which is funded by the Mid Durham, Stanley, and Derwent Valley AAPs, as well as corporate partners, will use the new skills hub as a volunteer-base.
Premises adjacent to the Foundations Skills Hub will be home to Karbon’s partners, North East First Credit Union, which has its own separate entrance and offers residents a selection of financial support, including affordable loans and savings to help people manage their financial situations.
Jobson continued: “Unfortunately, due to the impact of the pandemic, a lot of people have lost their jobs or are seeking alternative employment.
“We hope by opening the skills hub on the high street means we are accessible to many more people and this service is available to everyone, not just Karbon customers.
“Our qualified staff will be on hand to provide advice and guidance, and we will be working with lot of different partners to ensure a variety of support and advice for customers.”
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