TV's Dr Chris Steele Visits College

Resident health expert Dr Chris Steele was in County Durham last week to encourage out of work carers to get back on the career ladder by opening a Skills Account and called into East Durham College’s Houghall Campus.

The pioneering Skills Accounts are free to set up and have been launched by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) North East to help anyone over the age of 19 to identify the job they want and receive training and funding to help them win it.

The accounts are aimed at anyone looking to take their first step on the career ladder, those hoping to change jobs or return to employment. However, LSC North East is running a pilot programme to encourage people who have been out of work for five years or more after caring for a family member to open an account. By signing up for an account they could access up to £500 to be spent on training.

Dr Chris is backing the campaign as part of his support for national Carers Week, which takes place later this year (June 14 – 20).

He said: “There are a staggering number of carers out there – something like three in five of us will be carers at some point in our lives. Potentially that’s a lot of careers that whose careers and ambitions will be interrupted or delayed in favour of looking after loved ones.

“Carers do an immense job and often treat their own wellbeing as a low priority. It is important that they consider their own ambitions. Those carers who find that for one reason or another they are no longer required to fulfil their caring duties need to think about themselves again. A vital part of this is considering what they want to do in terms of a career.

“A Skills Account will enable them to gain professional help and advice to identify the job they want, assess the skills they have and gain those they need to get them there.”

Durham residents are invited to open an account at East Durham College.

Mark Moore, Head of Customer Services at East Durham College, said: “We will be offering Skills Accounts to every learner aged 19 and over.

“A Skills Account is an excellent way to plan and track your learning, and initial feedback from those who have opened an account has been fantastic.

“Going back into education can be daunting and people often wonder how much it will cost. A Skills Account can give you all of the information you need about potential course costs or indeed let you know if your chosen course could be free."

Chris Roberts, regional director of LSC North East, explained: “Opening a Skills Account is the first step towards taking control of your learning and working life.

“It helps you take stock of where you are, look ahead to where you want to be and provides support to get you get there.”

Anyone opening a Skills Account will receive advice and practical support from a trained skills advisor. The account helps match individual skills and interests to the ideal career and identify appropriate training courses and funding – which could be used to pay course fees, childcare, travel and for study materials.

Skills Accounts provide access to a wide range of courses which may be fully or partially funded for by the Government. Certain courses, such as higher education courses, are not funded by the LSC so are not currently included in the course search.

Those who sign up will be able to take advantage of a comprehensive careers database which provides in-depth information on more than 700 different jobs, including the nature of the job and likely terms and conditions, including pay.

This information will be drawn together into an action plan setting out targets to help people achieve their goals.

Skills Accounts have already been trailed in the South East and Midlands, where 94% of respondents thought they were a good idea and encouraged learning. The majority of respondents thought that Skills Accounts were easy to use.