Recycling and repurposing revives career paths for students

Creating a sense of achievement and building confidence in people is all in a day’s work for the staff at 4 Rs Reuse Workshop at Pennyburn.

A myriad of creative programmes are operating, through which the participants set and achieve personal goals by repurposing things that people no longer want or that are broken. There are also specially tailored training programmes that equip people to go out into the workplace confident and with the right skills, and other projects that are simply just fun and colourful.

The latest project to be officially launched at the centre was an art-based recycling initiative launched yesterday, Tuesday, with backing from the Housing Executive, which will involve professional graffiti artists, Urban Vizualz.

In addition to manager Joe Brolly, 4Rs has a bank of 11 staff members who are skilled joiners and electricians, and a raft of support staff, who work with the students mentoring and encouraging them to learn new skills that, hopefully, inspire them to build confidence in their abilities and, perhaps even give them the confidence to build a new career.

Set up in 2013, the 4Rs Workshop was established with the then Derry City Council and the Recycling Centre with the aim of recycling within the Londonderry and Strabane areas. The project is funded by the Department of Social Development and is totally cross community.

Participants get to work on electrical goods as well as on furniture and the workshop also runs what Joe calls the “Active Inclusion Programme” for people of all abilities and disabilities and ages, which is separately funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) which has pumped in several billion pounds into skills training and projects aimed at job creation.

“What happens here is that we deliver training to people from schools and those on the Active Inclusion Programme,” said Joe.

“The schools programme, for example, recycle electrical goods and furniture for sale. This includes things like washing machines, cookers and tumble driers, and what we do is take parts from old ones and fix them up and then sell them on.

“The money we make from this goes back into 4Rs and pays for the overheads and for the electric and things and in addition to that it increases the employability of the participants and repurposes things that were discarded.

“In 4Rs we have a mixture of people from able bodied to those with disabilities like learning challenges, and those with physical or mental health issues, and we simply work with them at all levels of their ability and we help raise their confidence. We look at occupations and ability levels and at what suits the needs of the individual and we tailor what we do to find a career path suiting whatever their disability and their interests are.

“So, for example, we might get someone in who wants to be a veterinary surgeon, but we look at a career path for them which might be dog grooming; it suits their interest because it involves animals and we help skill them.”

At 4Rs there is all manner of support available to bolster and encourage people to succeed.

In the Schools Programme, for example, Joe and the rest of the team work with school leavers who are in their final year, who are facing a career path more through an occupational path than through further education.

“In this instance we show them trades and what they could do, but we always do that showing them the importance of having essential skills and how to do that by gaining NVQs. That way they are maintaining a level of education that is more in tune with what they are learning in practical skills. This is about giving them skills and a basic education which shows potential employers and the participants that they have an interest in certain subjects which is backed up with certificates and education.”

Facilities at the 4Rs suite reflects the nature of the training, with work rooms for activities such as painting and decorating, and even a training room and an official retail space.

The staff at 4Rs are in regular contact with a large number of local employers, and Joe stressed that it was important to get the mix right when it came to matching participant needs and employer suitability. It is a recipe that certainly works, as 4Rs is constantly busy.

Ideas are always evolving too, keeping up with trends and innovations, such as yesterday, Tuesday’s launch of a new school programme involving graffiti art, which is being funded by the Housing Executive and supported by the innovative members of Urban Vizualz.

Working with 200 pupils, from a large number of primary schools in the city, as well as with older pupils from Lisneal College, Oakgrove College and St Josephs, the young artists will devise and develop murals and colourful installations for a number of sites in the city, including one at Dales Corner in the Waterside.

“The project started at Christmas and we hope to finish it by the summer. We are delighted that we have managed to involve almost every primary school in the city and that the project is being participant led and involves them researching ideas through an inter-generational dialogue and thinking outside the box. It is designed to help break down barriers while at the same time being fun and educational.”