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West Wales learners take first steps into higher education

A partnership between a Carmarthenshire employment organisation and The Open University in Wales has supported several local people to register for formal learning, despite facing barriers to education earlier on in life.

Developed by Communities for Work Carmarthenshire and the OU in Wales, Steps Into Learning gave a group of people from Llanelli and Carmarthen the chance to find out more about lifelong learning and how they could re-engage with education. The participants were either unemployed for over 12 months or classed as economically inactive, and aged 25 or over.

'I think the workshops were amazing,' said Gemma, one of the participants. 'They gave so much information on everything to do OpenLearn. Any questions I had or the rest of the participants had, they answered.'

Finding out about adult learning

As part of Steps Into Learning, project lead Helen Thomas at the OU in Wales delivered three work workshops alongside the university’s student support team which covered

Since attending the courses, three participants have begun registering for undergraduate modules, and one is registered since February 2022. Four are now in employment, and seven are currently signed up to OpenLearn courses.

Next Steps

‘The course took me 8-10 hours, which I completed over a few days,' added Gemma. 'Whenever I had the chance to do it during my day, I would. The great thing about OpenLearn for me was that I could access it whenever and wherever. I could do it when it fitted. There was no strict deadline or time the courses needed to be completed, which I liked.'

Communities for Work Carmarthenshire support people in the county who are unemployed or ‘not in employment, education or training’ (NEET). Jules Rapley is their Adult Employment Mentor. Alongside her work with the organisation, she has become an OpenLearn Champion – someone who is trained by the OU to pass what they have learnt about Openlearn on to others, including people they support, friends or family. The project is funded through HEFCW’s Reaching Wider Initiative and supports people from disadvantaged areas.

I am very pro learning, regardless of age or ability. I genuinely do believe learning is so important throughout our lives.

Jules Rapley
Communities for work Camarthenshire

Overall, Gemma feels that she gained confidence by attending the sessions and would not have thought about university without the workshops. She eventually wants to start her journey into higher education and continue her OpenLearn courses.

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