The Building Better Opportunities project, which was funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) and National Lottery Community Fund, has come to an end after five years of helping thousands in Norfolk to access employment and training opportunities.
The project, which was led in Norfolk by the Norfolk Community College and delivered in partnership with a range of local charities and organisations, aimed to tackle the root causes of poverty and unemployment in the region. It provided tailored support to people facing multiple barriers to employment, including those with disabilities, mental health problems, and a lack of formal qualifications. A celebration event was held in Great Yarmouth to say thank you to all those involved in the project over it’s duration – including ACE.
Lou Gardiner, CEO of ACE, receiving her award from Stuart Jennings of Norfolk Community College
Over the past five years, the project has helped over 6,000 people to improve their employability skills and find sustainable employment. It has also supported over 900 people to improve their mental health and wellbeing, and over 1,200 people to gain formal qualifications. ACE were involved in supporting many people from the region over the course of the project, delivering ten separate projects that supported a wide range of participants, including the over-50s, ex-offenders, those wanting to set up their own business and those looking to return to the workplace after a career break, and many more.
The project’s success can be attributed to its innovative approach, which involved working closely with local employers to identify the skills and qualities needed in the job market. This approach enabled the project to develop targeted training programmes that met the needs of both jobseekers and employers, ensuring that those who completed the training were well-equipped to succeed in their chosen career.
Lou Gardiner, CEO at ACE, with Stefanie and Hayley
One of ACEs participants’ was so inspired by the programme that she came to work for ACE. Hayley Hills, who is now a Teaching Assistant, said “Not only has ACE and the BBO project helped upskill me and get a job, it’s made me feel more confident and generally happier. The most challenging part was walking into a group the first time, but ACE’s friendly and kind staff made it so much easier. Now I’m working to help others, which feels great!” Another participant of the project was Stefanie Jacobs: Stefanie had been let down by mainstream providers, who were unable to give her the extra support she needed. She was referred to ACE by Norfolk Community College in the early days of the project and with the wraparound support she received from ACE she successfully completed a Health & Social Care course at ACE and went on to secure her dream job at a care home. She has now been working for two years and says the project changed her life, giving her purpose, financial independence and improving her mental health.
The end of the project has been bittersweet, with many expressing their gratitude for the support they received, while others express concerns about the lack of ongoing funding for similar projects in the future.
The CEO of the Norfolk Community Foundation, Claire Cullens, said: “We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved through the Building Better Opportunities project. It has made a real difference to the lives of thousands of people in Norfolk, helping them to overcome barriers and access employment opportunities. While we are sad to see the project come to an end, we are hopeful that its legacy will live on, and that the skills and knowledge gained will continue to benefit the community for years to come.”
The project’s success has been recognized at a national level, with the Norfolk Community Foundation receiving a commendation at the recent ESF Awards for their work on the project. The award recognized the project’s impact on the local community and its innovative approach to tackling the root causes of poverty and unemployment.
Some of the award winners at the celebration event