"Most people in Essex have a good quality of life, but we still have too many people who do not and one of the main reasons for this is a lack of skills and qualifications."Caroline Taylor, Deputy Chief Executive
Vital Signs 2014 is the second report of its kind to be undertaken in Essex by ECF and the results from statistical data and a community survey show that despite the fact that the county is perceived to be affluent, it is lagging behind in terms of skills and education.
It also reveals the contrasts affecting people’s prospects and the quality of their lives and that where you live, work and learn can have a major impact on your life. The report highlights the need for more apprenticeships for young people and more opportunities for older people to re-train and learn new skills.
Caroline Taylor, deputy chief executive of ECF said: “Vital Signs brings together existing statistical data and results from a community survey to give a 360 degree view of what life is like in Essex and how we are preforming when compared to other parts of the UK.
“Our first report looked at 12 themes which affect life in Essex and one area which emerged as a priority for our county was skills and education. This year’s Vital Signs has focussed on this theme and shows how ECF, through its grantmaking, is helping to tackle this issue.
“Vital Signs 2014 shows that compared to all other counties in Britain Essex does well in most key social and economic indicators, with the exception of skills and qualifications, where 67 per cent of all other counties score better.
“Most people in Essex have a good quality of life, but we still have too many people who do not and one of the main reasons for this is a lack of skills and qualifications.
“Whilst we can celebrate Essex’s success we must recognise there are inequalities that exist across the county. Only by working together can we ensure everyone can realise their potential.”
Vital Signs will be used by ECF to help ensure that its grantmaking continues to target the areas of greatest need. It will also help encourage philanthropy, making it more effective in the county and will stimulate debate about how people can work together to improve skills and education for all.
People who are interested in supporting their communities can use the information in Vital Signs to direct their action to the most critical areas. Overall, the report demonstrates that Essex is a great place to live and work, but it also exposes how geographical inequality affects some of our most vulnerable residents.
These issues affect us all, so this report and your feedback are critical in helping ECF to understand how we can support communities now and in the future.
We hope you will read the report with interest and that you will want to start a conversation with us about how we can work together to address some of our county’s most vital issues. We look forward to hearing from you.
If you would like to send us your thoughts or comments about Vital Signs please contact us. You can also visit Twitter and use #vitalsigns or @Essex_CF to share your thoughts.
Grants given through funds managed by ECF are already helping to tackle the shortfall and inequalities in skills and education in Essex. Support has been given to several projects with the aim of giving people the chance to reach their full potential. The projects include:
A grant of £103,316 was given to a partnership between Groundwork and Braintree District Council to run a scheme called the Green Team Project, to train young people in Braintree in practical landscaping and then help them to find employment.
The project has been “an unqualified success” so far and work has been carried out on more than a dozen sites across the Braintree District, each giving some benefit to the community.
Two Green Teams have already come through the scheme with flying colours, with many going on to employment. On the most recent project 100 per cent of those who took part passed the City and Guilds qualification and all now have good job prospects.
Stephen Wenlock, landscape architect with Braintree District Council who has been in charge of the project praised the young people who have taken part saying: “They have shown a very good work ethic and have had a fantastic attitude. Expectations have definitely been surpassed.
Work is now taking place to take the scheme forward to give more help to young people affected by unemployment.
Signpost Ltd has been given two lots of funding by ECF, in 2013 and 2014 totaling £13,020 to run a homework club on the children on the Greenstead estate in Colchester.The club is run at Signpost centre based at the library on the large housing estate, parts of which have been identified as being in the top ten most deprived areas in England.
Children and young people aged from five to 18 can take part in the club which is overseen by Essex Library staff and the youngsters can use computers, books and have all the facilities they need for their homework.
Over the past year children from 19 different primary and secondary schools in the borough of Colchester attended the club.
Paul Feasey, CEO of Signpost said: “The homework club is a fantastic thing. It is a very useful and well established initiative which is consistently well attended. The youngsters have access to all the kit they need and it is a nice safe place for them to come to after school to do their homework in a supervised environment. The club is also a great example of partnership working between ourselves and library staff.
The young people who come to the club are full of praise for it, saying when they are at the sessions they feel better able to concentrate and learn more, they appreciate the peace and quiet and the help from the supervisor.
One of the youngsters who has attended the club said: “I feel comfortable here. I can use the computers for facts and this helps me with my projects. I ca do my homework here is silence.”
Funding of almost £50,000, phased over three years, has been allocated to Essex Youthbuild to offer accredited training in construction and work related skills to young people who are offenders or at risk of offending, helping them to get their lives back on track.
The most recent City and Guilds course attracted a total of 20 young people, work experience sessions have been held and training site visits agreed. Youthbuild are taking the project a stage further with plans for a pilot horticulture course and have rented an allotment from Chelmsford City Council.
Essex Youthbuild, based in Chelmsford, accepts referrals from a wide range of agencies working with vulnerable young people. All of those taken on the programme will have had significant disadvantages in their lives and invariably come from a deprived background or difficult area in Essex.
The specialised training scheme run by Essex Youthbuild is unique in Essex and offers opportunities to around 90 young people a year. Attending the course can be a life-changing experience, turning young people away from crime, providing basic vocational and social skills and equipping them to play a positive role in society.
Martin Solder, chair of Essex Youthbuild’s trustees said: “Most of the young people who take part in the programme are in the last chance saloon before going to prison. Many have had chaotic lives without any prospects and this gives them the structure and stability they need. The vast majority really grasp the opportunity and flourish in the work based environment the programme provides. We have seen a lot of successes over the past few months with many going on to gain employment, completely turning their lives around.”
Carol Bogdanov, manager of Essex Youthbuild said: “Our aim is to continue to develop as a highly focused and sustainable organisation demonstrating that the most challenging and hard to reach young people can engage, learn, achieve and progress.
"We also want to develop social enterprise activities with trainees and lobby local statutory services and others to support this".”
ECF is grateful to the support provided by Anglia Ruskin University’s 3rd Sector Futures team in the Vital Signs project.