First Steps Women’s Centre (FSWC) has provided a unique service to women in Mid-Ulster for almost 22 years. Based in Dungannon, the Centre provides education and training, support and guidance, along with exceptional opportunities and friendship to women across Mid-Ulster. Up to 300 women per year access training across a wide range of vocational areas which is funded under theEuropean Social Fund (ESF)by Department for the Economy and Department for Communities. Positively contributing to all aspects of the Community, FSWC employs 17 staff and 18 tutors and offers over 60 training courses per year from Life Skills programmes such as English for Speakers of other languages (ESOL), Improve your English & Improve your Maths,, to Wellbeing and IT (Computers) courses. In 2015/16 the Centre provided one-to-one employment progression support for 50 women to assist them into employment or self-employment as well as work placements.
During the first COVID-19 wave, we put all the necessary requirements in place – temperature taking and hand sanitisers at reception, 2 metre social distancing posters on floors and posters, social distancing and reduced numbers in all classes, support bubbles in Childcare, etc.
Unfortunately due to this third wave, the Centre has had to temporarily close. However, thanks to today’s modern technology. all was not lost! The Staff worked together with the Tutors and were able to move our courses online to give the women an opportunity to continue their studies at home. For those who did not own a laptop or iPad, we provided one on loan which our mini bus driver delivered to their door. It has not been easy for the Mums to juggle Home Schooling AND continue their learning but after a couple of weeks and the help and commitment of our Staff and Tutors, a new routine was established. We also provided a First Steps Childcare Facebook Group so that our Childcare Staff can continue to support the Mothers and Children in the comfort of their homes.