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University Centre Shrewsbury - from research to action

  • University Centre Shrewsbury

The Nigerian proverb, 'it takes a whole village to raise a child' seems to sum up at least some of the philosophy behind an exciting new project which puts University Centre Shrewsbury centre-stage in helping people who are out-of-work gain confidence, experience and find employment. Nine organisations across eight European countries, including University Centre Shrewsbury (UCS), are collaborating on the NEET U project which uses the skills and experience of people aged over 50, bringing their insights to bear on the challenges facing young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).

They will provide advice, mentoring and support, helping young people to spot needs within their communities, and to access or even create new job opportunities.

Project Co-ordinator Keith Chandler explained: "This is part of a much wider range of work we're leading on in Shrewsbury. People talk about the 'demographic time-bomb' - where rising numbers of older people have serious cost implications for the public sector. At UCS we're working to help turn this debate around and show how this trend can become a tremendous asset for our communities.

"Latest projections suggest that just over a third of Shropshire residents will be aged 65 or over by 2033, with parts of the county even higher.

"We want to help the 'baby boomer' generation, and those that follow, in continuing to lead rewarding lives, making an impact on their towns and villages and where possible helping others."

He added: "Older adults have numerous valuable skills gained throughout their working lives, as well as having built useful networks in their communities. These all make them ideally equipped to help to support young people not in education, employment or training."

Colleague, Geraint Lang added: "NEET U is one of a series of interconnected programmes we're working on. Other projects include helping people in their 40s to 50s who have recently been made redundant think through how to apply their skills in new ways, perhaps through start-up businesses or directly helping achieve change in the place they live.

"Another initiative focuses on what we can learn from how children grow up - by playing games as a way of developing skills, knowledge and the ability to work effectively with others. We seem somehow to forget this simple truth in conventional education but we're now coming round to realising how 'gamification' can make a big impact on adult motivation, tackling challenges in society."

Research Director Mike Hyatt summarised the opportunity: "We're delighted that the NEET U project has been successful in achieving European funding. Work across this, and other national partnerships will help bring alternative perspectives to our work and also raise awareness of University Centre Shrewsbury, right at the start of our journey.

"This project, and the others described by Keith and Geraint mean that UCS will already, in its first year of operation, have relevance and impact within Shropshire that extends beyond the initial cohort of students.

"Developing a very practically based research programme within UCS has been an aspiration right from the start of the collaboration between the University of Chester and Shropshire Council. This is an early sign that action-based research, relevant to challenges facing Shropshire but also touching on big issues facing Europe and beyond, will become more and more important as UCS develops."

The NEET U project starts in September and anyone interested in finding out more or being part of the initiative is asked to contact Keith Chandler, Project Co-ordinator at [email protected]

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