Today (17th June), Bluewater’s fourth annual Learning Shop Awards took place. Each year, the awards recognise individuals, retailers and restaurants at Bluewater that have made an exceptional difference to others through their work with The Learning Shop, Bluewater’s on-site recruitment and training facility.

Held at Bluewater, the awards were attended by more than 60 people including the Worshipful Mayor of Dartford; John Burrell, Gareth Johnson; MP for Dartford plus retailers, local community groups and Kent organisations.

A total of eight awards were presented on the day and the individual winners were:

• SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD – Carl Burton, Massimo Dutti

• YOUNG LEARNER OF THE YEAR – Connor Baxter, Burger King (absent)

• ADULT LEARNER OF THE YEAR – Josh Pull, Costa (absent)

• COMMUNITY AWARD – The Entertainer (award accepted by Sara Fuller and Tom Kirchin)

• COLLABORATION AWARD – Topshop/Topman (award accepted by Brendan Tomney)

• HOSPITALITY AWARD – Comptoir Libanais (award accepted by Paul Hanna)

• EMPLOYER OF THE YEAR – Five Guys (award accepted by Fred Lines and Pablo Guimaraes)

Alongside John Burrell and Gareth Johnson, awards on the day were also presented by:

• Robert Goodman, General Manager at Bluewater

• Ben Gay, Training and Facilities Manager at The Learning Shop

• Jill Kay, Recruitment Manager at The Learning Shop

• Stephanie Cassidy, Assistant Principal, Business and Computing at North Kent College

• Sarah Kennett, Kent District Manager at DWP

Commenting on the awards, Robert Goodman, Bluewater’s General Manager, said:

“At Bluewater it’s vital that we recognise companies and individuals that have made an exceptional difference to others through The Learning Shop. Since its opening 17 years ago, the Learning Shop has created employment for 46,200 people – an achievement we are incredibly proud of. The Learning Shop has had a truly astonishing year. In September, we hosted the fourth and largest annual Learning Shop Jobs Fayre. 83 employers took over the entire upper Hall of GLOW at Bluewater where there was in excess of 2,100 job vacancies with almost 3,500 job seekers attending from local communities. All of the available vacancies on the day were filled. We will continue to work with Kent College, Department of Work and Pensions, our retailers and the wider community to drive employment in the area.”

Gareth Johnson, MP for Dartford added:

“The Learning Shop is a fundamental resource for our local community. I would like to congratulate the commitment and hard work of all partners involved including North Kent College, Department of Work and pensions and Bluewater. Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen unemployment drop to the lowest it has been since 1996 – and The Learning Shop has helped to improve employment within the area and also provided thousands of people with training and support over the years, enabling them to go onto successful careers.”

To ensure local people have the best chances to secure jobs at Bluewater, The Learning Shop team trained a total of nearly 1,500 people in 2015 with approximately 1,000 people progressing into work after a Learning Shop intervention. To engage with those people most in need The Learning Shop works with many local groups such as; local Job Centres, JSA customers, ESA customers, Kent probation Service, local schools and colleges, MENCAP, Children’s Centres and Ellenor Hospice to name just a few.