Saturday, 16 August 2014

Skillstep: Week 12

The Skillstep course has now sadly come to an end. All 12 weeks have been completed and my portfolio is finalised and ready for accreditation.

Over the past 3 months, the group and I have massively developed our vocational skills, employability skills, social skills and IT skills; as well as expanding our social circles and making new friends. We all feel self-assured and confident in ourselves as visually impaired and blind people of varying ages and abilities and can achieve anything we put our minds to!

Our final week began on Tuesday with a visit from Elaine, based at Trafford College, who talked to us about our work placements and what skills we feel we developed from undertaking our new temporary roles along with which existing skill we put to good use. I personally felt like I was able to expand my already established social and communication skills by being in a different working environment, and also developed my care skills tremendously - which will benefit me when I become a Guide Dog owner in the very near future. We also discussed our next steps after the course comes to an end and what our aspirations are for the future.

The group and I walked from the Henshaws Manchester Resource Centre further down Talbot Road to Trafford College, and were provided with a tour of the complex by Elaine; who also gave a brief overview of some of the courses that are on offer and the different qualifications that can be achieved and accomplished through the college, if we decide to continue with further education. Prospectuses were provided to those who wanted them.

In the afternoon, Elaine opened discussions within the group of how the vocational portion, provided by Trafford College and tutored by Maureen during her Tuesday sessions, could have been improved - especially through the accessibility of the learning log and accreditation sheets, as well as the way the course was delivered to us. Suggestions and improvements were provided and will be taken on board for the new Skillstep groups in the future. 

During Wednesday morning we were visited by Helen Doyle, Research and Information Manager at Henshaws, to discuss how we found the course and what we especially enjoyed about it - as well as which areas had room for improvement. All of our feedback was positive and was recorded digitally to then be typed up into notes to implement within future courses. I personally liked the length of the course - neither too long nor too short - and I especially enjoyed the variety of topics that the Wednesday sessions provided; introducing us to some new aids and equipment and the Access to Work scheme, refreshing over Braille, the iPad, First Aid and mobility aids and techniques, a cooking session to channel our creativity and work together as a group, travelling down to the Guide Dogs Training Centre, and having visits from the Police, National Careers Service and Transport for Greater Manchester.

Wednesday afternoon Muhammed Karim, Diversities Co-ordinator from Transport for Greater Manchester, came in to talk to the group and I about concessionary passes for blind and visually impaired people and what projects they are in the process of working on in the near future to make transport more accessible to those suffering from sight loss. We were welcome to ask questions and provide suggestions and feedback for Muhammed to then take note of and feed back to the team.

On our final day, on the Thursday, we all went out to Wetherspoon's, relatively close to Henshaws, for our meal along with Skillstep co-ordinator, Julie Parrish. The Big Lottery Fund and Henshaws kindly provided our meal and first drink, and additional drinks and courses could then be purchased by ourselves afterwards. I was one of the final members of the group to leave in the evening and found it very bittersweet but lovely to be able to finish the course in such a nice way.

I'm really glad that I took part in the Skillstep course; I have taken a lot away from it and feel a lot more confident in regards to employability and future interviews especially. My favourite part of the course was definitely my work placement with Guide Dogs and I'm extremely grateful to Julie and to the Guide Dogs Training Centre for making that possible! I had such a fantastic time and learned some really valuable skills. I also really enjoyed the social aspect of Skillstep, I have some fantastic friends that I will be keeping in touch with for such a long time to come.

You can view all of my previous Skillstep posts, submitted on a week-by-week basis, by clicking here and you can find out more about the course itself by clicking here at the Henshaws website, where you can register your interest to the course via e-mail.

I want to say a big thank you to Julie Parrish, Henshaws Society for Blind People and The Big Lottery Fund for providing such an invaluable and beneficial course!