I’m Aldrich Xavier Gonsalves, SU President at Dudley Students’ Union and I’m running to be your next Vice President Further Education. FE is vibrant, diverse and progressive and I want to reflect these qualities in the work of NUS when fighting for FE and our right to be heard. For too long we’ve been ignored and marginalised in NUS (and society) but we make up the largest section of the membership! I will be a VP that connects with you, listens to your concerns, and fights hard on your behalf. Vote Aldrich for VP FE because #WeAreFE
Nominated by: Charlie Leivers, Telford College Students' Union; Lewis Callary, Halesowen College Students' Union; Connor Curtis, Birmingham Metropolitan College SU; Khuram Mahmood, Walsall College Students' Union; Yankho Songwe, City of Wolverhampton College Students' Union; Katarzyna Sopinska, Dudley College Students' Union; Glennville Da Costa, Leicester College Students' Union
My name is Aldrich Gonsalves. I am currently the Student Sabbatical President of Dudley College Students’ Union. I represent the14,000 student cohort with assistance from a volunteering team of four Vice Presidents.
My main passion is caring for student wellbeing through various environmental and mental health campaigns. I believe the environment we live in is linked to our own mental health so both should be treated with respect and dignity.
Further Education can be a second chance for many people. Colleges train 2.2 million people a year, with 1.4 million being adults, which is a staggering statistic. I aim to represent every single student, regardless of whether they are an adult learner, apprentice, a recently joined T-Level student, or full-time/part-time student. FE is FE and there are no limits to what FE is and what it stands for.
Student Mental Health
If you elect me as Vice President of Further Education, I will begin the biggest national campaign for Student Mental Health the nation has ever seen. The need for more concise Mental Health measures has increased in recently years, as 85% of 105 FE colleges in England have reported increased Mental Health problems over the period of 2007 to 2015.
I plan to use our influence as a Student Voice to lobby the government and make it law that every college should have a trained counsellor on site. 40% of the colleges surveyed said they have full-time counsellors or mental health support workers and 77% said they have part-time counsellors or mental health support workers.
I also believe every college should train all their staff as many staff members simply don’t have the knowledge and the understanding to help identify mental health issues students may have and signpost them to the correct service, which may result in students not getting the proper care they need. This also leads to the issue of raised stigma which also needs to be broken down.
FE funding cuts
I have already personally collected over 500+ Love Our Colleges pledge cards to lobby our Members of Parliament to start a conversation regarding FE funding. Even though the Love Our Colleges campaign was a success and our government promised £400 million to FE colleges, I still feel as this is simply not enough to turn the tides for FE, as colleges have faced over a decade of funding cuts. We need to begin an open conversation on this issue with the government. Due to cuts, beneficial services such as counselling and Students’ Unions are usually the first to go, I want to prove that these services are vital to student life and are a must, need and expectation of any college.
Many apprentices are not recognised for their Student status; some are even confused on what their status is – whether they are in full-time employment or student on work placement. The parameters of an apprenticeship are blurred and to set the records straight, I wish to help apprentices understand where they stand when the lines are blurred. There are a number of apprentice issues such as their pay, travel expenditure, workplace rights and discrimination.
Travel expenditure is one of the biggest issues for apprentices, as the need for good attendance and punctuality is important to employers, but can also be a big issue for students travelling to and from college. Apprentices are on low wages which further exacerbates this issue. I plan to lobby the government to bring in mandatory discounts to public transport services for all students, namely buses, trains and tramlines.
Lack of respect is an issue. I would like to address that apprentices can be seen as ‘not quite’ or ‘less than’ a normal member of staff due to their apprentice status. I want apprentices to feel as if they are equal to other staff members within their organisation and reduce stigma on what an apprentice is.
I am a keen environmentalist and a strong believer that mental health and environment go hand in hand. Nature aids your mental wellbeing, it’s essential that we get away from the loud sounds of everyday life and surround ourselves with the quiet and relaxation of nature.
There are a number of issues facing not just our country, but our entire planet. I believe it is our generation’s responsibility, as the future of Great Britain to right some wrongs regarding our attitude towards climate change and global warming. In colleges and schools we learn what environmental problems earth is facing, but we are not taught HOW to tackle all the problems. I aim to raise awareness on this issue. I will lobby Members of Parliament and organise national demonstrations - the power of students will hopefully change the attitudes our government has towards making our planet greener.