Asha North Staffordshire

Matt Pointon of Unionlearn reports on another Community Learning Day for Asha users

In late February Unionlearn delivered a second Festival of Learning with Asha in conjunction with Unite. This event focused on apprenticeships, what they offer and ways that unions can support schemes.

The day built on an earlier event last year and was delivered by unionlearn project officers, Matt Pointon, Mark Rowe and Jane Warwick along with Mary Sayer from Unite and Robin Graham from Laughter Association UK.

The popular event was attended by 28 Asha service users, all from various BME groups across the city. It was also supported by Asha’s volunteers and paid staff. Clare White from the WEA also attended whilst Stoke-on-Trent College had a stand.

Prior to the event unionlearn met with Asha trustee John Walsh to discuss which areas of learning would be most applicable.

Unionlearn’s Matt Pointon said: “John was eager to have an event focussing on apprenticeships as many refugees look to begin these once they get their residency status.”

“Also, Asha was concerned about unscrupulous local businesses telling their clients that they were on an official apprenticeship whereas they were just making them work for less. Thus, the theme of the day was apprenticeships and Mark Rowe took the lead.”

The day was split into a number of distinct learning events:

  • What is an apprenticeship (and what isn’t)?
  • One to one ESOL sessions
  • Presentation & Q&A: Your Rights as an Apprentice
  • Laughter Yoga
  • Trade unions and your rights at work

Throughout the day unionlearn Project Officer Jane Warwick delivered one-to-one Value My Skills sessions with Asha clients, which were well received and proved very popular in identifying areas that learners could build on.

Matt added: “In addition to these learning sessions, some of the Asha service users used the budget which usually would have been used to purchase a buffet to prepare different foods for lunch as an additional learning and cultural experience. One additional reason for this was that many members had specific dietary requirements and so felt safer eating food that they knew had been prepared in accordance with those requirements.”


Fourteen men and 14 women attended from the following countries:

Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Ingushetia, Eritrea, Bangladesh, Syria, Sri Lanka, Albania and Russia.

Participant’s comments included the following:

.’I never realised that laughter could make me feel so different.’ Victore

‘To be shown how my skills and interests could help me look for suitable employment was very helpful’. Sasangi

‘Thinking about what I will do when I get my visa in the future, I will certainly look for some form of apprenticeship.’ Haroun

‘I was very impressed by the knowledge the speakers have about working in England’.  Morad

‘Thank you for helping me understand this new country.  It is very different from where I come from especially about looking for work’.  Hamada

‘I liked being able to ask questions’ Osman

Due to the impact of COVID 19, British Red Cross informed us they are unable to provide a service at Asha. They have moved to an online service.
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