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Press release

  • 12 July 2006

Free learning courses lead to new work and study opportunities for women

Weve done it! CAW students who took part in the last programme are now moving on with their lives and careers

We've done it! CAW students who took part in the last programme are now moving on with their lives and careers

A free learning programme at the University of Sussex aimed at getting women back to work and further up the career ladder is proving such a success that it is to receive a funding for a further two years.

Career Action for Women (CAW) which receives money from the European Social Fund, offers a unique opportunity for women who have taken time out of work to have families, or those wishing to move out of part-time or low paid work towards more rewarding careers.

The CAW programme, which started two years ago at the University's Centre for Continuing Education, also covers the cost of students' childcare and travel expenses. Participants take a series of part-time courses, lasting between ten and 20 weeks, which can lead to a relevant vocational qualification with possible routes into careers such as in nursing, teaching, law, social work and social care, management or community development.

Programme organiser River Jones says: "We have seen so much success from our first intake. Several women have now started degree progammes and some have started their own businesses. There are lots of women out there who know they have the potential to achieve so much more, but need that bit of support to decide what the next steps are and take them. This programme helps them build up their confidence and their study skills, and make really informed choices."

Participants can take as many courses as they need over a two-year period and can fast-track their way to completion if they wish - the aim is to fit the programme to the students. Often all that is required is attendance at a couple of two-hour sessions a week, plus independent study. One-to-one advice and guidance are also available.

There are no strict entry requirements - just an interview to ensure that students can cope with the demands of studying at this level. Two introductory courses - New Horizons and Exploring Learning -offer skills for those who feel out of touch, including CV writing and interview techniques.

For more information about CAW see For an application form, contact Career Action for Women, FREEPOST (BR 178), The Sussex Institute, Essex House, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9QQ

Case studies

Stephanie Todman

Stephanie Todman is one step nearer to her dream of running a cookery workshop for children, thanks to CAW. The 40-year-old mother has taken several of the courses, including ways into Small Business and Ways intoTeaching. She is now aiming to build up credits to enable her to get on a teaching degree course.

Stephanie, who lives in Uckfield with her husband Christopher and five-year-old son James, says; "I worked in hotel management after leaving school, but I have always wanted to run my own business. I started the CAW small business course last year at the same time as starting my own business running a farm stall selling my own cakes. It was fantastic having free childcare while I did the courses. I feel I've got a lot out of all the courses I have done, and they have given me the confidence to aim for what I really want to do - run a cookery workshop for children."

Jacqui Swayne

Single mum Jacqui Swayne is confidently looking forward to a fulfilling career in community development after discovering that she really does have the brains and ability to take on the challenge.

Jacqui, mother of Corinne, 18, and Cara, six, left school at 16 with a handful CSEs and an O-level in geography, but was pregnant by the age of 19.

It was while working with her younger daughter on a family literacy course that she became keen on study again, and took up the offer of free courses at Career Action for Women.

Jacqui, 38, who lives in Moulescoomb, Brighton, says: "Apart from taking an NVQ in massage, I hadn't done any studying since school. And at school I wasn't considered academic enough to take A-levels.

"One of the CAW courses, New Horizons, was a good place to start because it was about self development and realising personal skills. The academic side was not too heavy. It was while doing this course that I became interested in community development and enrolled to see if this was a possible career choice for me."

Jacqui is now about to start a foundation degree in community development at the University of Sussex. "I feel quite positive about my future," she adds. "I always knew I had strong views but I was also too much of a people-pleaser, not doing enough for myself. Now I feel I have been given the tools to get on a do something and the only person that could hold me back is me."

In preparation for her new career, Jacqui has joined a voluntary community action group, Parksafe, which encourages community involvement to improve local parks and play areas. The project at the moment is focussed on The Level in Brighton. Parksafe workers are there as a presence, which in turn reduces anti social behaviour. "The users of the park can see this positive effect and hopefully want to join as volunteers themselves," says Jacqui. "The aim is to bring the park back to the people it was intended for. Somewhere that children can play safely."

Julie Brandon

Five years ago Julie's life changed dramatically when a car accident left her physically and mentally impaired. She had to give up her job as a care home manager and realised that, because of the damage to bones in her legs, she could never return to working in a physically demanding environment. She also discovered that the head injuries she sustained in the crash had left her with acquired dyslexia.

"I didn't know what to do with myself," says Julie, 36, who lives in Hove "I wanted to go into social work, so I started an Open University Course in health and social care. But I found it a difficult way to study because of doing it on my own, I completed and passed the course as it was one of the requirements for me to been accepted on the BA Social Work Course. Then I heard about the CAW courses, and they were just right for me. The tutors were excellent. They made me feel relaxed and brought back my confidence. The courses also had such a

great atmosphere. It was very friendly and no one felt inferior." Julie has now just completed her first year of a social work degree at Chichester University. "It's hard going, especially now I have dyslexia, but I am going to see how far I get with it," says Julie.

Notes for editors

For more information, interviews and photographs, contact the University of Sussex Press Office, Jacqui Bealing or Alison Field, tel: 01273 678888, email:

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