Celebrating the launch of our newly refurbished carpentry facilities at the ‘Port Talbot Learning Hub’! | Adult Learning Wales

Celebrating the launch of our newly refurbished carpentry facilities at the ‘Port Talbot Learning Hub’!


Yesterday, 7th October 2021 we celebrated the launch of our newly refurbished Port Talbot Learning Hub - previously referred to as 'Unit 10' on Addison Road, Sandfields, Port Talbot.

The event was attended by 25 of our Branch members and guest speakers including the AM David Rees, our tutors and our staff that help to support the Learning Hub. Speeches were given by tutor Steve David, Chair of Council John Graystone our Chief Executive Kathryn Robson, and our South-West & Mid Regional Manager Beth John.

During the event, guests were given a direct insight into the extensive carpentry facilities on offer and learnt more of the Hub’s learning objectives. To further explain this, a short film was made about the facilities. Special thanks were given to the staff and volunteers that work so hard to run the Learning Hub.

The Port Talbot Learning Hub is in a sense, the offspring of the well-known Unit 19 that was established in 2002 by New Sandfields Aberavon (NSA) in partnership with the Workers Educational Association (WEA - one of the founding organisations of Addysg Oedolion Cymru I Adult Learning Wales).

NSA provided funding and materials for the Unit, whilst WEA was responsible for the teaching and training, accreditation and learner support. The objective was to provide a workshop-based training facility focused upon carpentry skills. But it was also much more: the primary purpose was in helping to build the confidence and self-esteem of the people who would use the unit. For them, it would be an opportunity to gain work related experience, develop teamwork skills and progress into employment. It was about personal development and providing a good, broad educational programme with an emphasis on learner support.

From July 2009 NSA was no longer able to fund the unit since their European funding at that time ended. WEA was determined to continue with the provision and through discussions with all stakeholders, decided that the option of 'going it alone' at the Unit was best. Unit 10 as it was then called was formally launched as a WEA project in September 2009, since which time it has been solely a WEA — and subsequently Addysg Oedolion Cymru I Adult Learning Wales - project. We were able to continue with the partnership with Sandfields Comprehensive School where a new partnership with Ty Afan Secondary Centre was established, providing carpentry training and basic skills support for young people in their final year who were not fully engaged in the school environment. This proved to be a positive experience for all involved. Our Workplace Learning Team also developed courses in partnership with employers and trades unions.

Addysg Oedolion Cymru I Adult Learning Wales has continued with its Adult Community Learning provision. This has seen the provision of carpentry training and essential skills support (personal development) for people who are long-term unemployed, have dependency or physical/mental health issues, or need an opportunity and catalyst to re-engage with education. This is being achieved in partnership with many organisations in Neath and Port Talbot who refer clients and learners to the Hub.

The facilities at the Learning Hub have a rich history with voluntary work taking place over many years, where its primary purpose is to help build the confidence and self-esteem of the people who use the unit. The Hub presents an opportunity to gain work-related experience, develop team-working skills, and to progress into employment.

One of our long-standing volunteers at the Learning Hub is Derek Edwards; Derek left secondary education with no qualifications, having struggled throughout with reading, writing and maths. He trained as a Carpenter and Joiner, attending tech' in order to gain the relevant qualifications.

Because of the difficulty Derek had with literacy and numeracy, he was given an additional year, or as Derek describes it, "put back a year" in order to get through the course. His struggle was not without reward, however, as Derek went on to gain regular employment in the carpentry and joinery industry.
In 1989 Derek had a major road accident which rendered him unable to work for a significant period of time.

Derek first came to the WEA South Wales as a learner in September 2005 having been housebound for a year suffering with depression. He started attending the WEA carpentry workshop at Unit 19 in Sandfields Aberavon just to "get out of the house" initially, and to get back into what he used to do. The workshop provided the opportunity to get involved in a working environment and get used to an everyday work routine with the mentoring and support of two tutors. Alongside the Carpentry Skills that were being taught was Personal Development with contextualized Literacy and Numeracy embedded within the curriculum. Derek found the set-up immensely supportive and began to volunteer his own skills to support others, whilst benefiting from the Personal Development aspect.

The unit has since moved to a different location in Aberavon. Derek still volunteers there 3 days a week, facilitating in the teaching and learning. Even though he permanently suffers with recent memory loss his confidence has grown immeasurably. He has become a valuable member of Addysg Oedolion Cymru I Adult Learning Wales. He is also now the Regional Leader of the British Woodcarvers in South Wales.

In May 2011 Derek was joint winner of the NIACE Dysgu Cymru Older Learner of the Year Award and was also winner of the Neath Port Talbot Senior Learner Award.

Derek has since been instrumental in helping us to establish a WEA Branch at unit 10 to help others become more confident and autonomous, to have more ownership of their own learning experiences.

Our South-West & Mid Wales Regional Manager Beth John says "The 'Unit 10' facility at the Addison Road Workshops has long been held in great affection by many local people over the past 20 years, and today's event celebrates not only the outstanding work that has been delivered out of the Workshop during that time, but also allows us to look to the future and share with the wider public the many plans we have for its continued success. The 'Carpentry for All' Branch and Addysg Oedolion Cymru | Adult Learning Wales enjoy a close, collaborative working relationship, built on mutual trust and respect, alongside our School-Link and Community provision. With the significant refurbishment programme undertaken throughout Lockdown, I am delighted that we have a facility that meets the needs of all stakeholder groups that operate out of the Hub, and look forward to welcoming new and existing learners to our classes, as a result of the extended curriculum offer that is now in place."

At the Learning Hub, learners present wide-ranging needs: those who are long-term unemployed and who would benefit from an opportunity and catalyst to re-engage with education, to those with dependency difficulties, or who present physical and mental health issues, where carpentry training and essential skills support offers brighter prospects and improved well-being.

Addysg Oedolion Cymru | Adult Learning Wales has funded extensive refurbishment work at the Hub, enabling the Branch to continue its work and revitalise its message at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on teaching and learning.

The event was a resounding success. It was great to see examples of the learners beautiful craftmanship and have the opportunity to share stories and listen to how the facilities have helped so many learners.

The event concluded with a fantastic practical demonstration by our volunteer tutor Derek Edwards.

We would like to thank everyone that attended the Port Talbot Learning Hub event, it was truly inspirational and humbling.

To see more photos from the event, please click here to visit our Facebook page.

To find out more about our Branches, click here.


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