Inspiring Hertfordshire adults prove it’s never too late to learn

The awards celebrate the work and achievement of adults and young people who have taken part in community learning and employment support programmes

Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 9:35 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 9:36 am

Outstanding community learners and their supporters were recognised at Hertfordshire County Council’s Step2Skills 2021 Achievement Awards.

The awards, held at Hatfield House on Thursday, October 7, celebrate the work and achievement of adults and young people who have taken part in community learning and employment support programmes over the past year, as well as their tutors, mentors and coaches who have helped to make an impact on their success.

Many of the learners have successfully completed courses or have been coached towards employment, under difficult and challenging circumstances.

Deputy Lieutenant Fergus McMullen, Cllr Terry Douris and Jim McManus Director of Public Health

The Old Palace at Hatfield House was lit up to celebrate the achievements of participants of Hertfordshire County Council’s Step2Skills (formerly Hertfordshire Adult and Family Learning Service HAFLS).

Leader of Hertfordshire County Council, Richard Roberts, said: “Adults who continue to learn throughout their lives are without doubt healthier, happier and have greater self-confidence and self-esteem.

"This is why we do all we can to ensure everyone in Hertfordshire, regardless of age or background, has access to education, skills development and opportunities so they can continue to grow and learn throughout their lives.

“Each year around 5,000 learners and project participants from a diverse range of backgrounds enrol on Step2Skills programmes, showing huge commitment to learning, often in the face of difficult and challenging situations.

James Ashton

"I am delighted to support the Adult Achievement Awards to recognise the incredible achievements of all our winners and runners up, but also to thank the many tutors and mentors who went above and beyond to encourage our learners.

"The thank you speeches were heart-warming in describing the learning journey and the support into work.”

Just a few of the evening’s highlights included hearing the story of James Aston from Abbotts Langley, who joined Step2Skills (known as HAFLS at the time) in 2019, having not been able to secure a regular paid job due to having low confidence and concern with job interviews.

James was used to living with autism but struggled in team settings and noisy environments.

Having benefitted from the Step2Skills programme, James is now in part-time employment whilst also studying with the Open University. He has spoken at conferences and featured in the service’s Supported Employment promotional video – all things he would not have had the confidence to do before taking part in the programme.

The event recognised the achievements of Step2Skills learners and project participants over a particularly challenging past academic year, with guest speakers and presenters including Deputy Lieutenant Fergus McMullen; Lionel Wallace High Sheriff of Hertfordshire; Cllr Richard Roberts, Leader of Hertfordshire County Council (HCC); Jim McManus, Director of Public Health at HCC, Cllr Terry Douris, Executive Member for Education, Libraries and Lifelong Learning at HCC; Scott Crudgington, Director of Resources at HCC; Steven Lee-Foster, Operations Director for Adult Care Services at HCC, alongside members of the Step2Skills Advisory Board.

The Awards were presented for the following categories:

> Skills Participant of the Year –Winner John Cooper, Runner Up Lianne Ames

> On-Line Learner of the Year - Winner Rohan Chopra, Runner Up David Steward

> Outstanding Young Achiever of the Year – Winner Ruth Knowles, Runner Up Lauren Davey

> Step to Employment Award – Winner James Aston, Runner Up Matthew Corcoran

> Inspirational Learner Award – Winner Sharon Ross, Runner Ups Alex Longmore/Yvonne Jackson

> Coach/mentor of the Year – Winner Sarah Ittoo, Runner Up Bernadine Makins

> Upskilling by Volunteering Award - Winner Bolatito Adepoju, Runner Up Renata Wiktor

> Subcontractor of the Year Award– Winner EM Skills, Runner Up Watford Women’s Centre.