Learning is legacy from South Yorkshire pit closures

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When South Yorkshire pits closed for the last time, it left a generation heartbroken – and searching for work.

The Learning Community in Rotherham was set up in response to those left behind – launching more than 20 years ago as a way to support disadvantaged individuals and communities back into training, education and employment.

Outside Treeton colliery in September 1972

Outside Treeton colliery in September 1972

Chairman Simon Pugh began the project in response to the unemployment in ex-steel and coal mine areas across Yorkshire.

Since then, The Learning Community has adapted according to community need and has over the years offered services such as job clubs, apprenticeships and qualifications in maths and English.

Simon said: “Back then there were collieries closing all over the place and all of a sudden there were people of all ages struggling to find jobs very different to what they’d had. We started working with these people, helping them to improve and adapt their skills so they could find alternative work. Ever since then we have been working with unemployed young people and adults in the same way, mainly in Rotherham.

“We have to move with the times of course but a lot of the basic needs are the same, no matter what. The key skills of employability don’t change and that is what we help learners achieve here.

“One of our learners we supported a few years ago was fantastic to work with. He was in his mid-20s, had Asperger’s and had never worked. We worked with him to bring out his skills and abilities so he could find employment, which he hadn’t yet managed to do. We helped him with his key skills, preparing for interviews and he got a job at Waterstones. Now he not only has a job and a career but he is doing something that he loves and aspired toward.”

Today The Learning Community is the latest scheme to benefit from the philanthropy of Rotherham manufacturing firm AESSEAL Plc.

The company has, since 2010, helped 330 projects with donations distributed through a charitable trust by working alongside charity the South Yorkshire Community Foundation.

Its AESSEAL Charitable Trust provides long-term support and immediate grants and donations. During this time over £500,000 has been donated to community groups and charities mainly working across South Yorkshire to address local needs.

The projects supported range from hospices to orchestras, homeless projects to community sports clubs and projects equipping young people with education and employment skills.

The Learning Community received recent funding to deliver targeted support and training for young people in Dinnington.

Simon added: “The funding has made a massive difference. The group we have been working with is made up of eight young people; none of them have had a job, almost no qualifications, and have been socially isolated with multiple needs on top.

“Now with the funding we have so far been able to bring them together so they have made friends within the group, get under way with getting their maths and English qualifications at level one or two achieved.

“We are getting them ready for interviews and looking the part, researching jobs and more.

“I’m sure that by the time our sessions finish we will have most of them if not all either in employment, further education or apprenticeships or traineeships.

“We wouldn’t be able to achieve this without the funding support we have had. It has enabled us to have a big positive impact on these young people’s lives.”

South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation has worked for 30 years supporting vital local community projects and initiatives with essential grant funding and provides a philanthropy service to individuals and companies who wish to make a difference locally.

Chris J Rea, managing director at AESSEAL, said: “Organisations are only as successful as their people and a large proportion of my colleagues who have made this business successful have come from the South Yorkshire region.

“I am very pleased that AESSEAL has been able to give something back to a community that has given us so much.”

Maria Stuchbury, philanthropy manager at the foundation, added: “It has been inspirational to see the impact of the trust over the last five years.

“The funding has touched the lives of many vulnerable people and enabled communities to address social issues that matter to them.”