December 1983 – how it all started – celebrating #30yearsinbusiness
It was 30 years ago today when I had my induction day at ITEC. It was a brand new organisation, being set up by Basildon Council and the Department for Industry, under the innovative ITEC scheme. The ITEC scheme involved the setting up across the country of several hundred Information Technology Centres under the Youth Training Scheme to train and find work in the new digital industries for unemployed young people in the District.
Basildon Council had provided the building for us, the old Nevendon Primary School in Burnt Mills Road. The building was being refurbished under a work training scheme and it wasn’t ready the day we started. I remember the corridor floor had only just been laid and it had been put down on wet cement – it’s nothing short of a miracle that this floor exists to this day!
We had no electrics, furniture or fittings. Malcolm, the ITEC Manager, brought in his deck chairs so we had something to sit on and the workman set up a light tube attached to the end of an extension lead, which we alternated between the light and the kettle!! – would this even be allowed today under current H&S laws?!
There were 6 of us and I remember we were very excited to be involved in something so new and innovative. Malcolm Bridges was the Manager, Tony Dwyer was the Deputy Manager, Paul Kench was the Electronics Trainer, Jo Bishop was the Databases/Spreadsheets Trainer, Jan Russell was the Programming Trainer and, at just 22 years of age, I was the Electronic Office Trainer, albeit I was still Wendy Peters then.
We spent the dark months of December 1983 and January 1984 getting the centre finished, receiving the deliveries of furniture for the classrooms and setting up the computers as they arrived. D-Day was February 1st and we were determined to be ready………….
2nd December 2013
Diary of 30 years in business – ITEC welcomes its first group! celebrating #30yearsinbusiness
Well, here it is, the day we opened. It was Monday 1st February 1984. All the classrooms were ready, all the desks had been put together and all the computers had arrived and were installed ready for use. The new group arrived at 9am, 30 of them, all anxious, keen and itching to get stuck into the computers. They were to be with us for one full year, 6 months in the classroom and 6 months on work experience with local employers.
The plan was that each group would spend 3 weeks in basic training in each of the 4 areas; electronics, programming, electronic office and databases/spreadsheets (which were complex in those days, if you remember dBase, WordStar and SuperCalc!) Once they had completed the 12 weeks, they would then choose an area to specialise in and return to that area for advanced training for 12 weeks. There was also a requirement for an outward bound course – but more on that later (I will blog my reminiscences of this in May – it will be worth checking back for!!)
Induction was first, of course. Health and safety at work, first aid and fire procedures, lunch and break time arrangements and how they would receive their £25 per week training allowance and travel expenses.
I can remember writing lesson plans and exercises for the young learners to do. How do you make word processing and office skills interesting enough to hold their attention?! My group also had the benefit of having the ITEC’s phone system in my training room and we did the typing work required by the managers, so they would have some ‘real’ work experience as part of their course. I can remember teaching them how to use ‘cut and paste’ – I would get them to move and copy lots of numbered paragraphs around in a document and then save their files and go on tea break. We would come back from break and I would make them put the whole document back in order again!! The trick was getting them to save their files after we’d mixed the whole document up before they cottoned on that they could exit without saving!
We did lots of letter-writing exercises. I taught them how to set out business letters and the formal language to use, i.e. Dear name = Yours sincerely, Dear Sirs = Yours faithfully, how to use the semi-blocked and fully-blocked layouts on company letterhead. I taught them all the control codes in Wordstar to underline, embolden and centre text, save their work, plus many more. I was dreaming about control codes, so I’m sure they were too….. Control PB turn bold on, type your text, control PB to turn bold off again! If you forgot the second Control PB, the rest of your printout would be in bold and, in the days of the daisywheel printer, this could take over 10 minutes as well as using up a lot of ribbon (as well as sounding like a machine gun)!!
Teaching them to answer the phone in a professional manner was great fun! We would do some role plays with them sitting back to back and watch some videos. At first they were very nervous and I had to make them take turns so they all had some practice with answering it and handling the call. After a few weeks, they would all rush to the phone when it rang and it was a clamour to see who would get there first!
It was a very enjoyable experience. In 1984, we had the time to get to know our first group of learners really well. It is great being back in touch with some of them now and seeing how they’ve grown up. They all have families of their own now and have carved out great careers for themselves. ITEC gave them a springboard to help them get started and they grasped the opportunity with both hands!
3rd February 2014
Diary of 30 years in business – Outward Bound – May 1984
In the early 80’s Outward Bound residential courses were funded as part of ITEC’s training courses and it was something I was fortunate enough to experience first time (although I wasn’t too sure at the time!)
30 years ago this week, in May 1984, our first group of learners (and me) went outward bound in the middle of nowhere to the Brecon Beacons, very beautiful but very remote! We picked up the coach from the Council Offices, which were then situated in Fodderwick, opposite the Basildon Centre where Westgate Shopping Centre now resides, and set off down the motorway for Wales. Halfway there we had to stop as some of the learners were not feeling very well. It turned out that their innocent- looking bottles of lemonade contained something much more alcoholic! A good start! I was already getting a headache! Arghh!
We reached the remote farmhouse that was going to be home for the next 4 days and settled into our dormitories and sleeping quarters – basic but comfortable and enjoyed a group dinner followed by some recreational games (table football featured a lot if my memory serves me correctly). We were put into groups and each group took turns on meal duties. This means that one group per day had to be up early to take over the breakfast duties and one night one joker set the alarm clock for the breakfast group too early and woke us all up at 4am! Ugh!
Over the next few days we experienced caving, orienteering, archery, abseiling, rock climbing and an assault course. I was terrified of the abseiling but found it was really enjoyable, one of the best activities I’ve ever done! I wanted to do it again and again. However, the rock climbing, which I didn’t expect to have any problems with, had me quaking in my boots – it turned out I was very scared when I had to climb up with nothing solid under my feet and only very small crevices for footholds – yuk! The main issue I had was I had to climb up the rock face before I could enjoy the abseil down – one extreme of emotion to the other! Yes, that is me in the green helmet abseiling slowly down the rock face! Apologies for the poor picture quality but remember it was 30 years ago (Truprint was our main option then!)
I remember on the orienteering day the weather was very good and none of us had any sun cream! We were hot, bothered and arguing over which way to go on the map. We finally found our way back to the farmhouse with burnt noses and shoulders and not in the best of tempers! We were able to release the pent up tension, though, on the assault course which was still muddy and boggy from the rain the day before. I missed a hand hold on the underarm ladder and was heading for a deep mud bath when Mark Robinson grabbed me round the waist and hauled me home – thank you, Mark, I have never forgotten your strong-arm act of kindness! I remember a mud fight at the end of the course that was very messy but highly enjoyable – we even had mud in our ears but, boy, did we laugh!
There was an evening of ‘midnight manoeuvres’ where the learners had to carry out a mountain rescue in the dark but unfortunately I missed this event as I was struck down with a migraine – it must have been all that sun, arguing, mud and laughing! It couldn’t have been anything else as there was certainly no restaurants, alcohol or time-off for the trainers! It was full-on morning, noon and night! *sighs* (May be one of our learners from 30 years ago can update us on the midnight manoeuvres as a guest blog!)
The caving was wet and cold! We had to wade through an area of cave called “Lisa’s Gullet” that saw us squatted down and crawling through a small part of the cave half full with freezing cold water. I remember we all surfaced at the other end in wet boiler suits, our boots filled with water and even our underclothes were soaked right through! An experience I have never been in a hurry to repeat! I also remember losing a couple of learners and having to go back for them. Where were they? Ah, back round the last corner having a full-on kissing session! Arghh!
Finally on the last day, we had archery. A nice, leisurely game during the morning before getting our coach home. However, the cows in the next field decided to come over and see what we were up to. The learners got a bit nervous when the cows got very close but using an arrow in each hand to extend my reach I was able to persuade them back into their own field. A Lincolnshire lass, born and bred, I was confident handling a few cows! A close encounter was resolved and then we were on our way home!
I remember returning home absolutely exhausted and sleeping the whole weekend away before returning to work on Monday. It was Malcolm’s turn to go the following year, and he took them to…… Butlins! Yes, with restaurants, alcohol and time off in the evenings!! Ugh!!! *slaps forehead* As Malcolm can attest to, I have never let him forget this!!
27th May 2014