Sister act - the Brighton & Hove women who transformed their lives through adult education

Lubna is one of twelve women whose lives were transformed after they enrolled on a employability class for adult learners earlier this year.

To mark Lifelong Learning Week 2021 we would like to celebrate their inspiring achievements, as well as the dedication of our Brighton & Hove Adult Education Hub team.

The class with teacher Sue and members of local charity Network for International Women.

Like Lubna, all the learners on our first Next Steps employability programme in May 2021 were second language speakers and migrants. The course was run in collaboration with Brighton & Hove International Women’s Network and was aimed at those on a low income.

Now six months later all are in work, education or are starting up businesses. One is working as a vaccinator while another is heading up a business start-up to create employment for other migrant women.

Lubna, who is from Palestine, had arrived in the UK just a year before lockdown, and had at times felt a little lonely. She lacked confidence speaking English and when she joined the course she wanted to improve her situation for both her and her family.

Today, Lubna, a mum of three children aged 10-16 years, is working full time at Chailey Heritage Special School as a teaching assistant – and on Saturdays teaches Arabic in Brighton.

She has also started studying for a degree and a masters in teaching Arabic as a second language, and has recently passed the RNIB’s English Braille exam.

Most of all, through Next Steps, Lubna has also gained a close community of supportive friends.

“The course has been great for me. It has encouraged and motivated me to be more confident speaking and communicating with others.

“It helped me recognise my strengths and weaknesses, and to use my knowledge, experience and skills to focus on reaching my goals.

Lubna with tutor Sue Cleasby

Developing potential

As well as teaching the skills associated with employability, tutor, Sue Cleasby, has a supportive approach and builds the learners’ self-confidence, positivity and their voice.

While on the Next Steps course, Lubna landed her first job interview in the UK:

“My teacher, Sue, and my class friends helped me practise for the interview - and I got the job!”

“This has helped me to not give up, and to continue studying and working. I am now proud of myself and I’m proud of my friends on this course. I was so lucky to have this opportunity.”

“With this network of classmates, everything has changed for me. I support them and they can support me.”

Next steps

Next Steps is an 8-week course designed to support those wishing to get into work, build a career or start their own business. It is suitable for all leaners, including ESOL leaners Level 1 or above. Classes are two weekdays per week, with hours that suit parents.

The learners are supported a team of experienced tutors from the Adult Education Hub, and one-to-one business mentoring and coaching is available to help them develop their future plans. 

The women have developed into an ongoing close supportive network. 

Several have opted to start their own businesses. Riza has started a jewellery business, sharing shop space with other local businesses, while Sinta has turned her passion for her Indonesian culture and food into a pop-up Asian street food stall in Bier Brewery in Brighton - as well as studying for a maths degree.

“I am very lucky that I have the ongoing support from Sue,” said Sinta. “She and Amir, the Adult Learning manager, helped me believe in myself and to focus on my business start-up.”

Learning to love myself

Aisha, a mother of four, originally from Morocco, is heading up a sewing business start-up with support from Chamber of Commerce and the International Women’s Network, that will help create employment for other migrant women.

“Through my one-to-one coaching with Sue, I realised what I really wanted to do was run a sewing business,” said Aisha.“I also met some lovely friends, and the course changed my thinking about how I can learn to love myself. I wanted to do something for me. I didn't want to be staying at home all the time.

"I am a confident woman now and I want to help other people to develop their dreams."

Sinta (right) and classmate Yvonne

Sue, who herself made a career change in midlife, having worked in nursing and medical sales, says: “I’m passionate about drawing out the potential of the learners and helping them to achieve their goals. Since the course I have continued to support them with mentoring – and they support each other as a community.

“Now they are coming back to share their stories and insights with the current cohort of Next Steps learners I am teaching, which further builds their confidence and self-value, as well as inspiring the new learners.”

Amir Bahrami, Adult Learning Manager for Brighton & Hove, said: “It is so heartening to hear what a positive difference our adult learning programme and tutors are making to the lives of learners, not only helping them find work and start businesses, but creating communities and improving wellbeing.

“Lifelong learning is vital for individuals, local communities and the economy, so we were delighted to open the new Adult Education Hub in Ivory Place earlier this year.

“Our courses and workshops are carefully targeted to meet the current needs of local people and we’re working with our communities, local enterprise partners and other key stakeholders to ensure learning opportunities reach those who need it most.”

Upcoming opportunities to join a class 

The upcoming Next Steps course is next starting in January 2022, followed by another in April. The course is free for those on a low income* and is open to all genders.

Find out more about the course on our Adult Education Hub website

* earning less than £17,004

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