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The Source at Meadowhall is a unique and innovative £5.5 million training and development centre located adjacent to Meadowhall Shopping Centre. It was set up in 2003 as a charity in partnership with Sheffield City Council and Meadowhall, with all profits reinvested into the development of its services and facilities. The Source is based in an area with low skill and employment levels; the team works closely with the local community and employers to meet their needs.
Since opening, it has received over 350,000 visits, provided training to over 2,000 people and supported 180 employers. The Source is unique in the way in which it brings people together: business people developing professional skills, school students participating in apprenticeships, retail staff completing vocational degrees, long-term unemployed benefiting from returning-to-work programmes and community members using the various facilities.
In 2008 The Source became National Skills Academy for Retail for South Yorkshire. It has also achieved the prestigious Centre of Vocational Excellence in Retail status (2005), received a Special Commendation for Training Innovation (2007), won Training Venue of the Year (2006) and together with Meadowhall won Business in the Community Big Ticks for improving Employability Skills (2006 and 2007).
The needs of learners, community groups and employers are met through a diverse and holistic programme of retail and customer service training that fills skills gaps and offers progression, taking learners from school to university level.
The work based learning programme takes people from 14 years old and now includes the Retail Foundation Degree. 990 people have participated, with 166 completing a full apprenticeship and 230 adults with no previous qualifications gaining a nationally recognised Level 2 award.
"This Apprenticeship has greatly improved my awareness of work and has provided more than sufficient training to achieve the promotion I recently achieved."
Retail Preparation Courses provide support for people from deprived areas. All participants completing the courses attend interviews with Meadowhall retailers. Over 50% of 2007 learners successfully gaining employment. Over 90% of 2007 learners were from ethic minorities.
"This is the best course I have been on. It was not only a course about retail it was a course that helped me to build my confidence."
The Source of Your own Destiny Course helps lone parents, returners-to-work, ex-offenders, former drug users and refugees. Over 400 people have benefited from the seven-month programme which includes a 12 week supported placement.
"The Source has been brilliant. Since I started training with them in January they have given me the support and training I needed to turn my life around."
The Supported Employment Programme enables people with Autism to receive work experience; 98% of adults with Autism are unemployed. 98 people have benefited from training and work experience; 20 have received paid employment.
"My confidence has gone up lots. I gained paid work and I feel like I don't need much support anymore."
The team engages with local people, retailers and other stakeholders, such as local councils, education authorities and Chambers of Commerce as well as South Yorkshire Learning and Skills Council, JobCentre Plus, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield College and 31 local schools.
"The partnership approach between ourselves and The Source has been the key to the success of this programme as we have ensured each course has perfectly matched the needs of local residents."
Burngreave Opportunities Community Organisation
"The dedicated and professional team at The Source at Meadowhall has shown great enthusiasm to support the Darnall Forum in creating new opportunities for deprived communities."
Darnall Forum Community Organisation
"The Source Director has also worked extensively with the Sheffield and Rotherham Work and Skills Boards, and the National Skills Academy on their Shadow Board. She has also been asked to join the Board of The National Skills Academy Skill Smart Retail. The team is currently helping to develop the government's new flagship learning programme, the Diploma in Retail, which will be piloted in schools from 2010."
Anne Seaman, Chief Operating Officer, Skill Smart Retail
"The Source at Meadowhall is playing an extremely important part in making sure that the Diploma in Retail meets the criteria required to make it a success for pupils, parents and retailers alike."
The training has had a profound effect on the lives of learners. Over 2,000 people have benefited, including 990 through work based learning, with 166 people completing the full apprenticeship framework and 230 adults with no previous qualifications gaining a nationally recognised Level 2 award.
Work Based Learning student
"I left school at 15 with no qualifications. I now have a qualification that proves to people that I am competent in my job. Not only that, I feel that my skills have been enhanced and recognise how much it would benefit both other members of staff and my employers, Debenhams."
Source of Your Own Destiny learner
"When I first entered the programme I had very little confidence. I was very overweight, a single mum and my outlook on life was very grim. Now six months on, thanks to the Source of Your Own Destiny Programme, and sheer determination on my part, I have lost three stone, received awards for computers and healthy living and have also got a job at Sheffield City Council. I feel I am a better mum for my son and a better person overall."
Retail Preparation learners
"The thing I liked most about the training was it made me feel more confident. I met many different people and have learnt so many new skills in addition to learning about retail."
"I enjoy the job and I work hard... I now feel I can try things that I would have found too scary before"
"I like helping people... I like to bring a smile to their faces and make them happy"
"I am not relying on mum and dad so much and that makes me feel good about myself"
Supported Employment learners
The training has also helped Meadowhall and retailers to source and retain trained, experienced and motivated staff. 180 employers have benefited from employees improving skills through work based learning. 100% said they were satisfied with the programme and that the standards are at the right level to meet their organisation's needs.
"The Apprenticeship really complements our in-store training system. Achieving the NVQ qualification means a lot to the trainees and is a real motivator,"
The training has improved customer service. 97% of shoppers rated customer services at Meadowhall as good in 2005. In 2006 Meadowhall won the prestigious British Council of Shopping Centres award for excellence in Customer Service.
"Since Kerry has been doing her NVQ she has gained a lot of confidence, especially in dealing with customers, this has also shown through in her working with her colleagues in the café, there is more team work."
The training has helped improve the perception of retail as a career by providing nationally recognised qualifications. It has also enhanced Meadowhall's reputation, generating publicity with an estimated average advertising equivalency value of £2,000 each month.