Fringe Box



Community Hub Will Offer People Training For Future Employment

Published on: 23 Dec, 2014
Updated on: 11 Jan, 2015

A social enterprise project is gearing up for a busy 2015, now that its Westborough premises has reopened after a complete refurbishment.

Number 109 Southway, already a shop for The Guildford Bike Project, will soon be fulfilling its promise as a community hub, working with unemployed people and offering them courses and training programmes to give them the skills for future employment.

Pictured from left, Guildford Bike Project’s supervisor and mechanic trainee Jim Philpott, trainer and volunteer Veronica Newington, volunteer Adam Donaldson, and co-ordinator John Thurlow.

Pictured from left, Guildford Bike Project’s supervisor and mechanic trainer Jim Philpott, trainee and volunteer Veronica Newington, volunteer Adam Donaldson, and co-ordinator John Thurlow.

The project is run by Surrey Lifelong Learning Partnership (SLLP), a charity that provides new opportunities for people who have missed out on learning in the past, so they can reach their true potential.

The hub in Westborough will be the base for a number of services aimed at local people. The shop – selling good quality, refurbished used cycles at affordable prices – opened in the summer of 2013. People donate unwanted bikes to the scheme. These are repaired and serviced by a team of young people at its workshop based at Guildford Borough Council’s Woking Road depot. Those who work and volunteer there are learning new skills. It also has City & Guilds accreditation.

The bikes are then sold at the Southway shop, and at a second shop at Sheerwater in Woking. A cycle repair service is also offered.

Inside the refurbished shop.

Inside the refurbished shop.

SLLP’s community learning advisor and bike project co-ordinator John Thurlow explained: “Our customer base at Westborough is split three ways. Firstly, we sell bikes to people on low incomes. Secondly, we have sold a lot of bikes to local students – 100 in the last year alone – and thirdly, people come to us often from beyond the local area and make a contribution to the project by donating their unwanted bicycles.”

The project will be funded from a number of sources, including the sale of the bikes, rental incomes and funds invested by partner organisations. These include Guildford College, Surrey County Council’s TravelSMART and Surrey Lifelong Learning Partnership. TravelSMART works to provide people with more travel choices that aim to cut carbon, calories and cost and help people find jobs. The premises are leased from Guildford Borough Council.

John added: “Anyone who comes into the shop can also talk to us about a number of things to do with our services. We will be offering information, advice and guidance, – what I call IAG. We are committed to helping people who are unemployed and also to community re-engagement.”

The shop closed in April for refurbishment and John admits that it took longer than expected for the work to start. He said: “There were some problems with what we wanted and the budget we had to work with. We had to get it right with the refurbishment of the flat above and a shop that is both fit for purpose and safe. Once we found the right builders they did a terrific job and completed the work within six weeks.”

A family drop in to buy a bike.

A family drop in to buy a bike.

The hub will not only be a place to sell bikes. Space will be created in the shop area itself and also in a room at the back for much more. One of SLLP’s partners in the project is Guildford College. It will be running skills-based courses and special sessions for young people from there.

John explained further uses of the premises: “We will also be able to give people useful travel advice, such as bus times and so on, and we will welcome other users whose work is either community minded or based on social enterprise.

Glade project manager Dave Pascoe.

Glade project manager Dave Pascoe.

Another of SLLP’s projects, that will now operate from the hub, is GLADE – Guildford Learning & Development Enterprise. The project is a joint enterprise with SLLP, Guildford Borough Council, Oakleaf Enterprise and the Guildford YMCA. It’s already up and running and helping young people by offering them opportunities to train and learn useful new skills while they undertake voluntary work.

Glade’s project manger Dave Pascoe said: “Glade is about providing learning opportunities, up-skilling, genuine work skills and training. It’s already providing garden services in the area and street cleaning comes next.

“We will be recruiting both volunteers and trainers. Our street cleaning supervisor, Steve Payne, is starting on January 5, and we are now looking to appoint our first volunteers.

“As part of the training, we will be offering a landscape gardening course here at 109 Southway, run by a tutor giving professional advice. It will be advertised locally and there will be places for eight people.

“Our core aim is to help people get into or back into work – whatever their age. We offer a rounded approach that is very much focused on confidence building.”

John Thurlow added: “Our projects are real and not for the short term – we are here for the long haul. What we are offering to people is real work, coupled with sound training and teaching them real skills.”

The hub at 109 Southway is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 10am to 4pm. For details of the Guildford Bike project call 01483 570521 or 570775.

The Guildford Bike Project’s website can be found at:

For more details see Surrey Lifelong Learning Partnership’s website:

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