MP marks opening of new jobs and skills service

Ian Lavery MP officially opens the iLearn centre alongside Tina Drury from Isos Housing.

Ian Lavery MP officially opens the iLearn centre alongside Tina Drury from Isos Housing.

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Morpeth’s MP had high praise for a DIY project to transform a community building into a high-quality office that is hosting a new employability and job skills service.

The refurbishment of the former Stobhill Community Link came together through Isos Housing hosting a week of activity where dozens of people gave up their time to come along to the old shop unit in Shields Road, Stobhill.

Brooke Burgess, from Northumberland Community Enterprise Ltd, second from left, and Gill Smith, from the Northern Learning Trust, second from right, join Ian Lavery MP and Tina Drury at the front of the refurbished building.

Brooke Burgess, from Northumberland Community Enterprise Ltd, second from left, and Gill Smith, from the Northern Learning Trust, second from right, join Ian Lavery MP and Tina Drury at the front of the refurbished building.

Its staff worked alongside partners from all sides of the business world, public sector and voluntary sector to make the project happen.

Between them, they provided and installed dozens of new components, including a new sign on the exterior of the building, carpet tiles, new panel heaters, notice boards, lighting, cupboards and filing cabinets.

The new iLearn Centre was recently officially opened by Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery.

He said: “This project shows what can be achieved by organisations working together – hand in hand – in the best interests of the local community.

The front of the building before the refurbishment took place.

The front of the building before the refurbishment took place.

“People often get the impression that everyone in Morpeth has plenty, and it is a successful town, but here in Stobhill there are parts of the area which are in the 10 per cent of most socially deprived parts of the country.

“Hopefully, people using this centre will get the self-belief, the understanding and the support to enable them to achieve something in life.”

The initiative is a partnership between Isos, Northern Learning Trust (NLT) and Northumberland Community Enterprise Ltd (NCEL). It is aimed at improving employment opportunities for residents in Stobhill, where most of the homes are owned and managed by the housing group.

The iLearn Centre brings together the knowledge and understanding that NCEL has of the locality and the expertise of NLT to provide support to local residents to improve their English, maths, ICT and employability skills.

Two volunteer training programmes will be delivered over the next year and the initiative will also work with people in the community who have low level mental health problems.

As a not-for-profit housing association, Isos decided to invest staff time in the project instead of financial investment, particularly as its private sector partners provided thousands of pounds worth of building materials, decorating equipment and paint, as well as people who volunteered to help carry out the work.

Executive director of customers and communities, Tina Drury, said: “We are about improving people’s lives, providing opportunities.

“We have a duty of care to work with those who are disadvantaged or vulnerable and give these people a platform to succeed in life.”

“We are very grateful to all the partners who have helped us make this project a success and it was great that Ian Lavery was able to officially open this fantastic facility for Stobhill.”

The project will work with Stepping Up Community Confidence – an organisation that is specifically funded to reach the groups of people that the centre will help.

Isos has thanked the following businesses for helping to make the project possible: Albany Contract Furniture, ASKAMS, Easi-lay Flooring, Esh Property Services, Jewson Ltd, MITIE, Newcastle Flooring Company Ltd, Strettle of Newcastle and Waymid Electrics.