Building skills and ambition in Sheffield

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A joint venture constructing new homes in Sheffield continues to lay the foundations for young people in the city to build new skills and confidence for the future.

A £15,000 investment by Sheffield Housing Company has enabled Chaucer School, in Parson Cross, to create a construction skills site and hair and beauty salon in a previously unused area of the campus.

Complete with workbenches, tools and equipment for undertaking jobs such as plastering, joinery and tiling, the construction facility is offering pupils the opportunity to learn key skills from trained professionals.

The hair and beauty area has been kitted out just like a salon with hair washing basins, chairs, mirrors and all the equipment required to cut, curl, colour, straighten and dry. Students are honing their techniques on mannequin heads but hope to progress to willing volunteers – their teachers – soon!

The support follows a similar donation from the partnership last year for the Class of Your Own initiative. This enabled students to experience, at first hand, the roles and responsibilities involved in bringing a large scale construction project to completion.

Sheffield Housing Company – a joint venture between the city council, developer Keepmoat and landlord Great Places – is building 2,300 new properties for sale, shared ownership and rent, over a period of 15 years. Sites in Parson Cross and Norfolk Park are currently underway.

Headteacher at Chaucer School, Scott Burnside is delighted to see the positive impact that the new resources are having with pupils who may previously have been disenfranchised from the education system.

He said: “We have found that both of these learning environments have had a stabilising effect on the behaviour of the pupils that use them, as well as raising aspirations and helping them to develop an understanding of what it is to be successful.

“On these foundations, our students can build, apply, transfer and master skills that will not only qualify them for the future but help them to develop as individuals. The work and learning that we have seen so far has been outstanding and we have witnessed an increase in the engagement of these young people - not just in these sessions - but with school as a whole. We thank Sheffield Housing Company for their funding for this fantastic initiative.”

Kye Maginn, 12, is in a group of 12 pupils working in the construction zone and his interest in perusing a trade has had an impact on how he views his other lessons.

He said: “I used to think - If I don’t do this, I’ll fail and not be able to get a good enough job but after experiencing the construction classes, I now have a positive goal to work towards in my other lessons.

“If you want to be a tiler or a plasterer but you haven’t got your maths qualification, they aren’t going to trust you to level something or measure a job. Starting to learn these trades has shown me how important it is to work hard and achieve my maths, as well as giving me a good understanding of the different skills involved in the job.”

Kieron Clinton, 13, added: “My behaviour in school was maybe not as good as it could have been but working on the plastering and tiling in the construction skills area has really helped me to improve this. I look forward to the lessons and it has been good to learn how to do these jobs, as it is something I would like to do in the future.”

Ellie McCormack, 14, is one of 10 students who have got to grips with the varied tasks involved in hair styling.

She said: “We come in here one day a week, alongside our other lessons and it has been great to see what it is like to work in a real salon. There are a lot of tricky skills to learn but the more you practice, the better you get. This is something I have always wanted to do and being able to see how things are done, whilst I am at school, is giving me a head start.”

There are now plans to expand on the success of both initiatives.

Sheffield Housing Company Project Director, Tom Fenton, added: “Our aim has always been to support community improvement and development, as well as driving up the quality and choice of homes. What better way to do this than help local youngsters find ambition for the future and learn the skills which will help them make their way in life. The partners are delighted to be backing such a worthwhile initiative.”

Councillor Leigh Bramall, Cabinet Member for Business and Skills and Deputy Leader at Sheffield City Council, added: “This is a fantastic example of how developers like SHC can make a real difference to the outlooks and prospects of the young people in our city. My hope is that this relationship will continue to strengthen over the years to come.”