WORKERS are being offered the chance to walk down a different career path at a time when COVID-19 has destroyed the concept of a job for life.

As many people face the uncertainty of furlough, redundancy and job losses, Darlington College has stepped up to the mark to help those in need.

DC Works, an inhouse department staffed by experts many of whom have themselves had to overcome redundancy, is stepping up its efforts to upskill the workforce and offer a brighter future.

Part of the 10-person team were employed by a company who for eight years successfully worked with the college providing an employability service.

When the company went into administration Darlington College took the staff in house to form DC Works, a unique adult learning provision to support people into employment, further education, professional development or future learning. It offers quality delivery and industry relationships with a diverse range of learner-centred, bespoke courses.

The team is led by manager Sharon Shiels with the help of, among others, senior engagement co-ordinator Patrick Robinson.

“In these uncertain times our aim is to help everyone reassess their lives and offer them the opportunity to gain and hone the skills they need to move forward,” said Sharon.

“At one end of the spectrum, this could be help with interview techniques and boosting their CVs, or to sign-post them elsewhere in the college to high level qualifications. It’s about upskilling people and in many cases leading them down a different career path.”

Patrick, who is also manager of Billingham Town Football Club, likened the current situation to the world of football, which he has been involved with since his teenage years.

“Research shows an average player/manager’s life-cycle at a club is around two years” said Patrick, who in the past has been involved with Halifax Town, York City, Darlington and Middlesbrough Football Club.

“Players tend to question whether they are being valued, whether they want more from the game or want something new. In my case I had to think again when an injury ended my playing career at 19. But the changing world around COVID has made this more applicable to everyone rather than just the world of sport, and the research echoes this too.

“COVID has sped this up for all employees. People are losing what they thought were jobs for life. Our role is to help them choose what to do next, whether that is identifying transferable skills, boosting qualifications or helping them start their own business. We draw from them why they want a change and then we help them aspire to achieve it. The support we offer as DC Works is transformational and very holistic.”

Sharon added: “We are discovering that many people are anxious with the uncertainty, or being made redundant and this pandemic has provided the impetus to launch their own ventures. People really are starting to think ‘what can I do now’.”

Demand for DC Works’ services have been increasing exponentially with upward of 100 new learners a month signing up for an array of courses/workshops.

Sharon said: “We have worked extremely hard to understand the needs of the region, sector opportunities and skills that are required by employers. We have listened, adapted and advanced it to allow us to have a major impact on people’s lives. We can help so many people in so many ways.”

Anyone interested in opportunities at Darlington College should visit www.darlington.ac.uk or www.darlington.ac.uk/dc-works-employment-support/ for DC Works.