More than 200 free courses have now been undertaken by members of Derbyshire Benevolent Trust (DBT) through its Life’s for Learning initiative.
From the initial 20 courses offered back in 2015, the programme – which offers members free courses – has since been extended to cover a wide range of subjects with the most popular relating to mental health, counselling skills, business administration, nutrition and health, equality and diversity.
“The feedback I have been given and that given to DBT has been very positive with several students doing further courses to add to their CVs,” says Andrew Brickles, who heads up the programme for the trust.
“With the start of the 2019- 2020 academic year further courses have been added to the Life’s for Learning programme but Brexit is having an effect on the colleges in relation to the funding from central Government because in the past some of the courses have been funded from the European Union.”
Andrew is a retired firefighter with 33 years’ service to Derbyshire Fire and Rescue and also took on the role of the East Midlands regional union official for a number of years. He then went onto be a life-long learning organiser for the Fire Brigades Union covering the East Midlands and working with the fire service delivering learning opportunities and dyslexia awareness programmes.
He has been a school governor for 34 years and currently acts as chair in a primary school, special school and secondary academy so has experience of education provision in Derbyshire for children from the age of three right up to adults. Andrew is deeply committed to ensuring all children and adults regardless of their age, ability or background benefit from access to high-quality education.
He first became involved with Derbyshire Benevolent Trust when he was asked to give a talk about the work he was doing with the fire service around learning opportunities and distance learning.
Andrew explains: “We decided to do a pilot in 2015 of around 20 students to get their feedback on the courses and the distance learning concept for the DBT membership.
“The thinking was about offering distance learning courses to members who wanted to get back into learning, those seeking promotion or keen to invest in continuing professional development (CPD) as well as those approaching retirement or actually retired; courses that would help with their own interests.
“We started with a pilot of 20 courses in the first year and have now delivered over 200 courses to members of the DBT. All the courses that we promote at Level 2 are fully funded – which means they are free – and involve working with colleges and the Skills Network. The normal cost is about £750 per course.
“There is no limit to the number of course any student can do in the academic year as long as they are 19 years or over and a member of the DBT. They must complete each course before applying for the next one. One person managed to complete five courses in one year.”