achieving change through enterprising solutions

Meet the Team – Bernie Spark, Work IT Out Tutor

Actes’ Bernie Spark is a prime example of how volunteering can open the doors to employment, after securing a full-time tutoring role following nine years away from the workplace.

The thirty-six-year-old former retail supervisor relocated to Middlesbrough from North Yorkshire two years ago with her four children, now aged between four and 18, and at the time was acting as a full-time carer for her eldest son.  When her youngest daughter went into full-time school she realised it was the right time to do something for herself and stop being benefit dependent. 

Bernie says: “This was the perfect opportunity to start prioritising my own needs, break the cycle of being reliant on benefits and set an example to my children. My parents had always worked and I had grown up to believe that working was a positive thing to do with your life, but circumstances had prevented me from gaining employment for a long time up until this point.”

Bernie’s eldest daughter Shannon, who was NEET when she arrived in Middlesbrough, was referred onto Actes’ Level 2 employability course Defining Futures after enrolling onto the New Directions Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) and this inspired Bernie to self-refer herself onto the course to further build on her CV.  Prior to moving to Teesside Bernie had completed an Access to Higher Education course at Yorkshire Coast College and had studied Applied Social Science in Children and Young People at York University, having initially had a career in social work in mind, however after a change of heart she now saw an opportunity to apply this qualification in a teaching environment.

After completing Defining Futures she put herself forward for a volunteer tutor role on the course, a role which she undertook for several months to gain some hands-on work experience while Actes supported her through the Level 3 qualification in Education and Training with Middlesbrough Community Learning.

Bernie says: “Volunteering offered a way to move forward with my life and progress with future plans.  After nine years away from work it got me back into a routine and used to working hours again.  More importantly, it helped me to rebuild my confidence which I didn’t think was possible to get back.  Defining Futures’ tutor Nick helped me to do this gradually, by encouraging me to get more involved with learners on the course.  At the start of my time volunteering I couldn’t imagine standing up in front of a class, now it’s something I’m comfortable doing every day.”

With the qualifications and experience under her belt, Bernie was in a prime position to secure her current role as full-time tutor on Actes’ new Work IT Out course, which launched in April and is accredited at City & Guilds Entry Level 3 IT and NOCN Level 1 Employability.

Bernie is delivering the eight-day course to Middlesbrough residents from the Resource Centre in Meath Street and it is also being delivered in Stockton at Newtown Community Resource Centre.  Work IT Out is designed to equip people with improved IT skills to help them navigate Universal Credit, be compliant with Jobcentre job search requirements including use of Universal Job Match, and to be better prepared to enter the world of work. 

Bernie says: “I enjoy seeing people’s achievements as they progress through the two weeks.  They come into the course really lacking in confidence, so I take the time to get to know them and encourage them to open up and mix with each other which is good for boosting their communication skills.

“Not only do I take pleasure seeing people come out of the course more confident and with an enthusiasm to progress and do additional training, it’s fantastic to see my daughter Shannon motivated by the fact I’ve secured work as this has given her the confidence that she can also get a job doing what she enjoys.  She’s just completed a Peer Mentoring course for Actes’ One Planet Pioneers programme and is actively seeking new opportunities.  I’d definitely recommend volunteering to other people. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t had the opportunity with Defining Futures,” she added.

For further information about Actes visit and to enquire about volunteering opportunities contact 01642 856 030.