As part of its outreach programme to engage with all members of the Blaenau Gwent community, VISTA (Valleys Innovation Showcase for Technological Advancement), a new business support initiative in the region, has announced a partnership with leading charity, School Of Hard Knocks.

Delivered in partnership by the University of South Wales and Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council, and funded by the UK Government’s Community Renewal Fund, VISTA offers a range of support options to businesses in Blaenau Gwent from access to grants, to opportunities to engage with consultants and leading academics in their field.

Reinforcing this business drive is the desire for VISTA to involve the economically inactive in its engagement, ensuring people are aware of the opportunities in the region and what is possible, and the unemployed are given new hope in getting back in work with leading businesses.

What will the partnership involve?

VISTA and School Of Hard Knocks will run a series of interventions over the next five months, starting in late June at Ebbw Vale RFC’s Eugene Cross Park, that will encourage people to realise their potential, to support employers in improving their wellbeing in the workplace, and to link the two, therefore providing opportunities for work through the VISTA project.

School of Hard Knocks has a legacy of supporting individuals from across Blaenau Gwent to overcome their barriers to sustaining employment, linking them to meaningful employment opportunities and responsible businesses in the area.

The SOHK Adult Programme, that will be maximised by the VISTA project, focuses on tackling unemployment, as well as poor physical and mental health. Many participants have extra barriers to employment to contend with such as challenges with their mental health, histories of criminal and anti-social behaviour and addiction.

Dr Nick Lambert, Director of Operations, VISTA Project:

“We are delighted to be partnering with an organisation that has a proven track record across South Wales in engaging with adults and helping them fulfil their potential.

“School Of Hard Knocks has been successfully running rugby, wellbeing and employability courses in Ebbw Vale for people from across Blaenau Gwent, working with those who face challenges to employment, such as poor mental health, homelessness, low skills, substance misuse, and criminal convictions. It is crucial that the VISTA project brings everyone along on the journey and supports people as much as possible and this partnership will help us do that.”

Shaunni Davies, Adults Programme Manager, School Of Hard Knocks:

“We are really looking forward to building on our track record in Blaenau Gwent and supporting VISTA with its aims to engage the whole community. Everyone should be given a chance to fulfil their potential and with this partnership we can reach out and make a difference across the region, helping change mindsets, grow confidence and hopefully create job opportunities.”