Supporting one local charity to access skills development opportunities for its team of volunteers.

Based on Brunswick Street in Stockton, FRADE – or Furniture Reclamation and Delivery Enterprise – is a local re-use charity and a source of affordable furniture.

The charity’s three core aims are to reduce poverty by selling affordable, good quality donated furniture at a reduced price; to reduce waste by collecting unwanted household goods and electrical items free of charge, and to increase instances of employability by providing work placements, volunteering opportunities and training to help people back into employment.

Tapping into Skills for Growth Support

As an organisation that provides support to upskill staff and volunteers to move towards paid employment, FRADE has a naturally high volunteer turnover and with it a continual need to train. That’s why Skills for Growth support has been so valuable for the charity in helping to source the right training and skills support for the team to provide high-quality experiences and aid their development.

General Manager, Michelle Tierney, told us: “Our volunteer workforce is the backbone of our charity, so we needed to identify a good source of regular training, particularly in terms of health and safety, to upskill our new and existing volunteers to provide them with the skills they need to complete their roles effectively and to give each individual the best chance of moving on to paid employment.”

After completing a Training Needs Analysis with FRADE, the Skills for Growth team identified and recommended 17 part and fully funded training courses.

Michelle commented: “We were surprised at how comprehensive the skills development plan was and by the amount of free training that was available to our charity. The Skills for Growth team conducted a full training audit on everyone involved within our organisation and identified a number of training options for each department to consider.”

Getting skills back on track after Covid-19

A core concern for the business following the Covid-19 pandemic was the decrease in regular Health and Safety training due to restrictions. The business needed to find and schedule training such as Manual Handling, Health and Safety and other essential skills including Mental Health First Aid, First Aid, Diversity and Safeguarding.

One of the courses identified was a three-day IOSH Managing Safely training course, accessed by two General Managers to help increase knowledge of foreseeable risks and how to mitigate them. This course was funded by Skills Support for the Workforce via Calderdale College and delivered by Evolution Training and Consultancy Services. The business has implemented many aspects of the training and knowledge already.

Further support was offered by University College Quayside (UCQ) who were able to offer training to support volunteers in their current roles and to help build their skills to progress into paid work. This training was fully funded through Tees Valley Combined Authority’s Adult Education Budget. UCQ were also able to work with FRADE to develop an ongoing training programme.

Michelle said: “The advice and knowledge gained was invaluable and has improved our ways of working and managing our workforce safely. We have updated our Lone Working risk assessments for our smaller stores.  The manual handling and health and safety training was implemented immediately, and this has provided increased confidence and motivation to our workers. We now have a sustainable model of health and safety training for our future volunteers and staff.”

Additional training was also needed for the business’s Digital and Finance departments, alongside succession planning for a key member of staff who will be retiring after 26 years, so that her expert knowledge and skills can be retained within the business.

Streamlined Skills Support

Michelle said: “It was extremely useful to have an impartial person to speak to about what our charity needed and what we could access. We regularly receive emails from training providers selling their services, but we were not sure of the level of training that we needed or where best to access this.

“The support from Skills for Growth simplified the process, saving us valuable time to work on the business. We had the assurance that we had someone to turn to when new needs or questions arose. Without the help of Skills for Growth, FRADE simply would not have accessed the amount of training that we have secured and our business is now in a much stronger position thanks to the help that we received.”

Skills Development Officer Amey-Rose McGrogan supported Michelle through the process.

She said: “Working with a business as complex as FRADE – who hold charity status and have a mixed workforce made up of both employees and volunteers – provided a great opportunity for collaborative working between several Tees Valley Combined Authority departments and local training providers. The bespoke and multi-faceted support Skills For Growth was able to offer has provided Michelle and the team with a great foundation for growth within the business and its employees.”

About Skills for Growth

The Skills for Growth programme works in partnership with Teesside University and is supported by the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England.

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