Case study: Gateway 97.8 using training to upskill hard-to-reach groups and secure the station’s future

by Sep 28, 2020Case studies

Gateway Community Media

Community radio station Gateway 97.8 depends on volunteers to provide programme presenters, production, editing and reception support. As a local not-for-profit radio station, it has only 6 paid staff and therefore relies heavily on its 75 volunteers in order to sustain a 24/7 service of quality broadcasting. Coupled with the station’s mission to be a force of good in the local community, Gateway’s strategy is to take on volunteers regardless of age, ability or background and to offer training to the unemployed and hard to reach.

Gateway 97.8
Date 2020
Region South East
Size 0-49 employees
Sector Media and publishing

volunteers trained

course completion rate

people helped into work and college

volunteers trained per year

Using radio as a tool to breakdown barriers

Established in 2006 and licensed in 2010, Gateway reaches around 100,000 listeners. At the outset a training programme for the volunteers was devised in-house covering mixing, broadcasting, editing and production. After a successful pilot, OCN was invited in and Level 1 accreditation was achieved.

Gateway’s aim is to use media as a means of helping the long-term unemployed and hard-to-reach individuals to gain transferable skills as well as provide a sustainable resource to keep the radio on the air. The station approached the Job Centre and Essex county council’s education department to offer experiential learning to the long-term unemployed and also to provide placements to students with difficulties, some of whom had fallen out of mainstream system.

The station found that media was a great tool for young people to use to express themselves. By offering the training with the opportunity to gain a qualification, this supported educational aims as well as providing strong recognition of achievement for the young people.

Life-changing opportunities

Participants who have undertaken the training describe it as ‘life-changing’ and that ‘it gave them self-worth.’ All participants gain the qualification and there are impressive examples of impacts on pupil behavior and attendance rates.

One attendee who was classed as long-term unemployed is now in a full-time career in customer services whilst another – who was excluded from school –has achieved his dream job as a chef. The training programme has produced talented engineers and backroom support staff and many of the trainees return to support the training of new students acting as role models and volunteers.

The programme has been so successful that the BBC and Sky have provided additional training to volunteers wanting to work in the media industry. Whether the volunteers want to go on to a career in media or not, Gateway sees the impact from the training as transformative.

As Director Daniel Lawrence explains: “We are proud of our people’s achievements and to see people move back into education or work. We are even prouder that some who want to work in broadcasting are following their dreams with previous volunteers now working for BBC Radio and Sky Sports.”

This innovative training approach has provided purpose, instilled self-confidence and equipped many hard-to-reach groups with beneficial transferrable skills. In doing so Gateway has also created a strategic approach developing sustainable talent to protect the station’s future.

Gateway 97.8 Students

Effective learning

Gateway offers an accredited one year media broadcast course for 50 volunteers annually and a level 2 programme is also available which is more indepth and covers further skills in presenting and radio editing. Learning methods are varied and practical and are underpinned by mentor support.

For the student programme, the needs of each individual are assessed before the training starts to identify any adjustments in the learning and as part of safeguarding procedures. A key strength of the programme is to understand the interests of the students; this is used to engage them and is integrated into their learning plans. For example, one student produced a show about the life and music of Elvis.

Maths and English are embedded into the programme however, the training provides real-life practice in the studio to develop and evidence these skills. For example, switching between programmes has to be spot-on and seamless. The participants learn how to master the technique of ‘backtiming’ and ensure that the switch to the national news or national weather at the top of the hour is timed perfectly to the second.

Gateway Students Group Photo

Diverse offering

The programme is well designed and learning methods are adapted to support those with emotional or learning disabilities. Examples include using recording facilities to demonstrate competence for a participant in a wheelchair who has brain damage and is unable to write and providing digital clocks for timings to support learners who cannot read an analogue clock. Furthermore a weekend radio club is offered for young people aged 8-16 to help develop skills whilst improving behaviour issues.

“We are proud of our people’s achievements and to see people move back into education or work. We are even prouder that some who want to work in broadcasting are following their dreams with previous volunteers now working for BBC Radio and Sky Sports.”


Daniel Lawrence, Director (Gateway 97.8)


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