Peterlee woman gains valuable experience in quest to secure catering industry employment

May 22, 2019 | Local News

A woman with aspirations to work in the catering industry is a step closer to achieving her goal after completing employability courses.

Donna Wilkinson, from Peterlee, had been unemployed since 2016 and suffers from epilepsy and depression. She hoped to find a position as a kitchen assistant but lacked confidence and was unsure whether she would be able to return to work.

But, thanks to courses funded by Durham County Council’s Adult Learning and Skills Service, Donna’s self-esteem has rocketed and she is now gaining first hand experience as a volunteer in a local community kitchen.

Donna said: “Before I came to Acumen I was shy and lacked confidence in myself and my ability. Now I have so much more confidence. They’ve helped me believe in myself and helped me to get a volunteer job which I love.”

In August 2018, Donna embarked on a Food Industry Routeway delivered by Acumen, a community enterprise trust that provides employability and training services in the East Durham area.

She then progressed onto Acumen’s digital skills programme, Evolve, along with Talk and Share, a fun, interactive programme designed to encourage people to talk about their feelings and encourage peer support. These are just some of the many employability courses funded by the council as part of its commitment to providing accessible training opportunities across the county.

Donna, 36, excelled on both courses, fully participating in all tasks and activities. Initially shy and reserved, she blossomed into a positive and bubbly member of the group and her confidence and communication skills improved dramatically.

Donna also benefited from one-to-one guidance, and quickly became a source of support for others, going above and beyond to help fellow members of the Talk and Share group.

With her confidence so much improved, Donna felt she was ready for the next step and, assisted by her advisor, secured the voluntary placement. This has further boosted her self-esteem and social skills, while helping her to develop a working routine.

She is also gaining valuable kitchen experience, reducing gaps on her CV and will be able to provide a recent reference when applying for jobs.

Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Cabinet member for children and young people’s services at Durham County Council, said: “Well done and a big congratulations to Donna. Helping people to develop the confidence and skills they need to realise their ambitions is at the heart of our Adult Learning and Skills Service. Whether that means teaching people the digital skills they need to update their CV and apply for jobs online, supporting them to set up their own businesses or providing activities to boost wellbeing – we are here to help.”

The council works with a range of voluntary organisations, employers and public health teams to provide training in more than 100 venues across County Durham. To find out more, visit www.durham.gov.uk/adultlearning

For more information about the services Acumen provides in East Durham, visit www.acumentrust.org.uk