The team went to meet Lynda Batchelor and Derek Nutt, who run the RnB Learning Zone, based in Moseley Rugby Football Club in Billesley, south Birmingham.
Their biggest project is their Work Club – which started off informally, but flourished more than they could have anticipated. Both Lynda and Derek initially trained as teachers, and have been able to use their I.T. skills to train those who are out of work to use computers to hone their CV.
We were also welcomed by Councillor Alex Buchanan and Councillor Susan Barnett, Birmingham city councillors, who spoke extremely highly about the services offered by the Learning Zone. Alex pointed out that the work the centre did was massively beneficial and “a huge asset to the area”.
What goes on at the RnB Learning Zone?
The Work Club at the RnB centre happens twice a week and is really popular; in fact it is constantly over subscribed.
RnB’s aim is to be a safe and supportive environment for people to go – and it is. It feels very calm and quite secluded in the greenery of the Rugby Club. Derek pointed out that one of the secrets of the club’s success is that it’s crucial that it doesn’t feel like yet another visit to the jobcentre, nor does it feel like school.
Helping jobseekers feel more confident
Derek mentioned that even tiny tweaks can be enough to transform a CV and with it someone’s chances at getting a job. They have seen clients come in to the centre without a clue how to begin to apply for jobs, the problem sometimes being not realising how skilled they really are.
Often, they leave the centre “happy as Larry”, like the ex-car body repairer, who originally thought he didn’t have that many skills to offer. After a little bit of discussion, it turns out he had reams of experience in many important aspects of running a business.
They found that some of the club members were worried about using the government website for searching for jobs, as they didn’t have a computer at home. As it turns out, many of them had a smartphone or a tablet – but didn’t know they could use it for this purpose.
Lynda added that if the funding for the centre does nothing but help people realise what skills they have to offer, then “the difference it makes and the confidence they leave with”, means that it is money well spent.
Working with people in sheltered housing
As well as the Work Club, they go out and run sessions with people in sheltered housing. They train residents in some simple I.T. skills, perhaps by helping them to contact family members by email or Skype, or by broadening their horizons and find new information using the internet.
They also use their training to give people the confidence to use computer services provided by the local library. Lynda and Derek emphasised the fact that the library has fantastic resources, but the staff do not always have the time to train people to use them. RnB can help give people the confidence to independently use these services.
Happily, Lynda and Derek are able to run the RnB Learning Zone thanks to the Moseley Rugby Community Foundation, who provides the centre itself – their portacabin in the rugby club – as well as the heating and lights. They also received some funding from Community First which made more sessions and visits to sheltered housing possible.
Inspired to set up your own work club to benefit your community? Take a look at this resource on Just Act.