A project in the West Midlands highlights how the UK is helping create a fairer and more equal society in the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All (EYEOA). The KYRA Outreach project is a pioneering, multi-faith leadership programme that works in some of the most economically deprived areas of the region by encouraging members of the community to pursue further education and training.
Now the people delivering this programme have been praised, by Trevor Phillips Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, for bringing communities closer together and tackling some of the issues of inequalities in society.
In a unique partnership between the region’s business, public and voluntary sectors, the project allows participants to learn a wide variety of skills in the classroom and the workplace.
One student, on a Foundation Degree course in Leadership and Management, reaped the benefits of the course within one week of completing the first module.
Haroon Rashid’s introduction to the course was learning to prepare a Powerpoint presentation and as ‘Harry’ puts it himself: “Somebody must have been watching over me because, one week later, I saw a suitable job advertised and the final, decisive step of the application process was to give a 20-minute Powerpoint presentation.”
Continuing, he said: “I was not only successful in being appointed to the job that I wanted but each of the nine modules that I’ve already completed has also coincided with my vocational training needs.
“My job at Millennium Point, Birmingham calls for me to manage a team of 18 so the leadership and management course modules are invaluable, particularly on ‘Law and Employment Law’. The ‘Culture’ module was a real eye-opener in terms of understanding and adapting to meet the needs of a wide diversity of employees at all levels. I have learnt a huge amount over the last two years and will certainly say thanks to KYRA and celebrate better security of a successful employment future, in 6 months, when I have completed the final two modules. Without the training I would still be in a job which led nowhere without qualifications.”
Annika Krefta is one of the very first students who enrolled at the pilot stage of the leadership and management course back in 2003. Looking back over the past 4 years Annika is very thankful that it was the route she took.
“I was working full time as a receptionist at the Chateau Impney and Raven hotels in Droitwich, Worcs but wanted to further my career prospects with a suitable qualification, having already complete a college education in Estonia, but realised that it would be almost impossible to balance a conventional college course with full daytime employment. Flexibility is one of the keys to the success of the KYRA project and I have been able to adjust my educational work schedule to dovetail with the busiest times in my employment and now bringing up a tiny baby.
“The hotel’s managers were very helpful and guided me toward the KYRA project and I know that I was promoted to Duty Manager partially because of skills acquired on the course. Now, as an Assistant Manager for Aldi, I can use my leadership and management techniques to not only successfully supervise a team of colleagues but, most importantly, keep them motivated, efficient and happy in their work.
“Like fellow student Harry I found the Employment Law module continuously useful to deal with employment challenges while the Management and Leadership modules enable me to put theory into practice while being self-analytical and a better manager. All the way through my education route with KYRA the advice of my mentor has been invaluable in my working life by boosting my confidence and helping me enormously with interview skills.”
KYRA also has a ‘skills ladder’ and those passing out of KYRA’s six-month ‘Enterprise for Sustainable Communities’ programme can achieve a Level 3 award that is both accredited by the National Open College Network and leads naturally on to a Foundation Degree.
Spearheaded by Solihull-based Monsignor Daniel McHugh the project’s immense success was underlined early in 2007 when the not-for-profit organisation received the Enterprising Communities Employment and Skills Organisational Award.
So far 20 students per year have enrolled for the Foundation Degree and have learnt vital skills during modules such as ‘Management & Organisation’, ‘Law’, ‘Communications & I.T.’ and ‘Culture – Diversity and the Common Good’. The name ‘KYRA’ is, says Monsignor McHugh; “borrowed from the Greek Goddess of Wisdom and Community because that is precisely the aim of the project.” The first students to graduate will be awarded their degrees by Coventry University in the summer of 2008.
The European Year of Equal Opportunities for All marks a major debate on the benefits of diversity across Europe and aims to make Europeans more aware of their rights to enjoy equal treatment and a life free of discrimination. Feedback will be used to inform the future work of the new Equality and Human Rights Commission, whose Chair Trevor Phillips commented:
“Projects like this – and many others in the West Midlands – are bringing communities together and tackling issues faced by some of the people encountering the greatest inequalities.
“But it’s also important to recognise that The European Year of Equal Opportunities for All gives each and every one of us all a chance to consider what we mean when we talk about equality. It is clear from the people and projects I’ve met during the year that equal opportunities affect all of us in one way or another in the different stages of our lives – whether we are parents, carers or workers, elderly people or children.”
Notes to Editors
1. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission.
2. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights.
3. The Equality and Human Rights Commission will enforce equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourage compliance with the Human Rights Act. It will also give advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors and to individuals.
For more information visit www.cehr.org.uk
If you are interested please contact the Outreach Manager Saiqa Andleeb on 07886 961 245.