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It's never too late to learn new skills

Learners of all ages are taking advantage of the wide range of courses available through the UK Community Renewal Fund.

EKC Group’s use of the UK Community Renewal Fund (UKCRF), a government-funded scheme aimed at helping economies in need of a boost, has seen more than 1,500 students aged 19 and over to gain new skills.

One of the UKCRF pilot schemes, the Group’s already seen successes among people of all ages.

Perhaps one of the best examples of that is Ellie Cumming, a 70-year-old retired teacher who took up a short bricklaying course at Folkestone College through the UKCRF.

Getting to grips with terminology and techniques, she only enrolled for the course after a conversation with the EKC Group team about what options were best for her.

Sarah Gibson, Ellie’s Student Progression Mentor, recalls: “We were just having a general chat when she brought up that she was having some work done on her house. I mentioned we had bricklaying and she said ‘Why not give it a go?’”

With a new breadth of knowledge, as well as experience with a range of different walls, she feels confident enough to test her skills outside of the classroom.

Ellie said: “It’s been excellent, it’s always a really lovely atmosphere here and everyone’s really friendly – there are absolutely no downsides and I can’t believe it was for free!

“I never saw myself doing bricklaying but I’m really glad I did. I’ve got a wall going up at home and I’m going to have a go at building it myself, which I never thought I’d say!”

A fellow member of the course, Keith Howell, already works as a plumber and plasterer but simply tried out bricklaying out of curiosity.

He enjoyed his UKCRF experience so much that he is now going onto a Digital Skills course, which his Mentor – also Sarah – says is a key benefit of the Fund.

She said: “It’s incredible to see people who may not have been in education for years come here, learn new skills and gain a renewed passion for learning.

“So many of those who’ve participated in CRF have enjoyed the experience and gained a renewed sense of confidence.”

One of those who has seen that boost is Chantelle Luckman, who has completed a course in Nail Treatments.

She said: “I wanted to do a course to boost my confidence. I was working until Covid hit and the lockdown happened.

“I have recently started working again, but they are later shifts so the timing of this course is perfect for me. It's just a great opportunity to get back into doing things and seeing whether or not this is what I want to start pursuing as a career. 

For more information on the UK Community Renewal Fund options available through EKC Group, click here.