Originally from South Africa, Bernadine has lived in the UK for 13 years and is a tenant with Circle Housing Association in London’s Tower Hamlets. Before she began her learning journey with Circle Housing Old Ford, she had a few digital skills, but knew that to get back into work she’d need a lot more. She says: “A long time ago I knew a little bit about IT, but it was all still very new then and I never got round to developing those skills any further.”
A couple of years ago, when her sons were a bit older and had started going to playgroup, she decided that the time had come to start improving her career prospects. “I saw the IT classes at Eastside Youth Centre which were run by Circle Housing Old Ford,” explains Bernadine. “We used to get leaflets through our door - and I noticed that the classes were really close to where I live, which was especially helpful for me. It meant I could fit it around dropping off and picking up the kids.
“I thought it would be good to go along both to help me find a job but also to meet new people. I don’t think a lot of people realise that going to classes helps you to get out and socialise! I also thought it was brilliant that they offer the classes for free - it really was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up, because I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do career-wise.
“Once I started attending the classes I really enjoyed it! My tutor, Sheniz, is really nice and friendly and the environment is so easy to learn in. I was being taught all kinds of different stuff and I enjoyed it so much that I thought the right path for me would be to try and get an adminstration-type job where I can use my new skills.”
As part of the Circle Housing Old Ford IT Training programme, Bernadine completed all of the courses on Good Things Foundation’s online learning platform, Learn My Way. After that she progressed to the OCR Level 1 IT User Certificate courses, which are designed to teach learners the basic transferable skills necessary for the modern workplace.
Bernadine says: “I put my name down for the qualification - it was recommended to me by the Circle Housing team. Before coming to the IT classes I don’t think I’d have had the confidence to do the course, but Sheniz always encourages me - she sings my praises and tells me that I’m doing really good. It’s so nice to get positive feedback and encouragement and that gave me the confidence to do it.”
The qualification helped Bernadine to refresh her basic IT skills, and covered things like spreadsheets, making presentations and sending emails. Once she’d achieved her OCR Level 1 certificate, Bernadine moved onto to the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL). She says: “Sheniz encouraged me to do the ECDL, which covered all the same things as the first course but was a bit more advanced. I was so pleased when I achieved the certification, and it looks great on my CV!”
After developing her skills and gaining her certifications, Bernadine did a three-month voluntary work placement with Circle Housing Old Ford’s community development and customer service teams, before securing an apprenticeship at another housing association as a Monitoring Assistant.
Bernadine says: “I did my volunteering and that was really good experience and very helpful for preparing myself for going back to work. It was a real confidence-builder! I achieved the apprenticeship and I was delighted because it was such a good opportunity.
“This whole learning journey has made me feel great because I’ve been able to achieve so much - everything is contributing to where I want to be. Because potential employers want people with experience and, of course, with IT skills, I think everything I’ve done will help me secure permanent employment.
“I’m using my digital skills to look for jobs online at the moment. I’d definitely recommend getting online to others who are looking for work. It just makes everything so much easier!”