Featured Centre - Toolshed
Posted 26 April 2016
Toolshed is an alternative education provision managed by New Meaning (http://www.newmeaning.co.uk). It encourages creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and passion in its learners to help them get where they want to be, earning their own living, or creating social enterprises along the way.
Toolshed achieves this through multi-Trade construction traineeships for 16-24 year olds, using NOCN vocational with employability, English and Maths, underpinned by weekly attitudinal learning to develop personality strength, confidence, maturity, self-belief and resilience.
NOCN spoke to Toolshed’s Centre Director - Jessica Tyrrell - to find out more:
NOCN: Hi Jess, can you tell us about your organisation?
Jess: The Toolshed is a social enterprise, training young people in construction, carpentry, plumbing, and painting and decorating – but we also focus on behaviour change to help young people understand themselves and the world around them better, working on their life-choices and decision-making, understanding what they have to offer and their sense of worth.
I’ve been in post for a year and we now have a fantastic team including two full time tutors with decades of experience working with apprentices in the trades. One tutor was even Prison Officer of the Year in his previous job and he is incredible!
Our motto is ‘Work hard play hard!’ and our learners and staff are always laughing, but everyone is here to work.
We don’t just train young people, we also employ them, which is something I’m really proud of. We recently started a ‘handyman’ service and now have two apprentices. Work is taking off and our customers like the idea because it’s affordable, they get a great service and people like to give back by helping a young person.
NOCN: Tell us about your learners.
Jess: We work with Local young people in the High Wycombe area, aged 16 to 24, although we hope to work with older people soon. Our learners are mostly on JSA, and are usually not in education, employment or training, we get 16 students every 20 weeks, 5 days a week. They negotiate amongst themselves what times they work and also what group rules they need to follow – which improves their confidence, responsibility and decision making.
Our young people do not have a very positive association with school and their confidence is often very low. For many, the education system doesn’t work, this costs the economy through welfare and healthcare costs so education needs to change to better support people like them who learn differently. These are bright kids although not academic, they are doing incredible things.
We work to bolster their strengths, learning styles and ultimately their potential. We have tutors, mentors and achievement companions to ensure we help overcome any hurdles to achieving success. They come to us and can say at the end: “I can do that!”.
NOCN: Tell us about your relationship with NOCN.
Jess: We have used NOCN since the start. When we were choosing we spoke to four other providers and found that NOCN more closely aligned to our goals with its flexible support, range of products and services, and open minded attitude.
The other providers and colleges were quite rigid in what they required, for example saying we have to take a year to deliver our course when we needed to complete the training in 20 weeks to meet the needs of employers and young people.
NOCN are very flexible and responsive and it is important that we have an Awarding Organisation that moves with the times. NOCN are innovators, willing to push the boundaries by doing something different and not traditional.
NOCN: What NOCN qualifications do you use?
The NOCN qualifications that we use are the Level one in employability, health and safety, multi trade construction skills, English and maths. We also tried to use the L2 in painting and decorating – but it was too much written for many of our learners who need something practical. Attitude is the most important thing for employers, not academic qualifications. We spend hours every week working on attitude although we don’t get funded for that, it is so important.
NOCN: What do your learners get out of doing an NOCN qualification?
Jess: Our learners gain better confidence, vocational skills, qualifications, a future, a job. In fact, 100% of our graduates go into work, apprenticeships or education.
One of the Apprentices on our handyman service is called Jade, she’s a real firecracker, she’s tiny but as strong as all the boys. When she came to us, she was on JSA, had quite a tough life and her own struggles, not much experience. But she has turned her life around, saving up to get her driver’s licence, and we’ve had the most incredible feedback, now we have customers calling to request her. She did Level one in multi-trade and level two in painting and decorating.
Don’t just take my word for it though, here’s what Jade says:
"ToolShed has given me confidence, friends and knowledge. I knew nothing about construction and now I've got a really good understanding. The staff are good fun, they make you feel welcome, they really try for you, they get you work and you can be yourself with them. My parents keep saying ToolShed has saved me.”
NOCN: We spoke to our Account Manager for London and the South East, Ajay, and he had the following to say about The Toolshed:
“The Toolshed is a really inspiring organisation to work with. They are doing good things with young people and their approach and attitude towards helping them gain work through practical training, while working on job skills and confidence building, really pays makes a positive difference for the young person’s outcomes – who usually end up getting a job or training because of it. Jess’ passion and commitment to her learners is evident and I look forward to working with them more.”
NOCN: What does the future hold for The Toolshed?
Jess: We want to offer more to our young people and to help more of them as well as older learners. We already support them to get their CSCS card to work on site and we’d like to offer more qualifications, possibly apprenticeships and more direct employment opportunities.
To find out more, visit The Toolshed website at: http://www.toolshedbucks.co.uk/
If you know of an NOCN Centre which is making a difference, let us know and we might be able to feature them to inspire others: firstname.lastname@example.org.