ORGANISATIONS planning innovative projects to help black, minority and ethnic people access further education can apply for financial help to the Indian Muslim Welfare Society in Batley.

The society is a fund-holder for the European Social Fund and wants to hear from voluntary organisations with novel ideas. It is managing a total of nearly £1m as part of a project in collaboration with the Learning and Skills Council for West Yorkshire.

"It is the first time that a voluntary organisation such as ours has been a fund-holder. The aim is to engage black minority ethnic learners in Kirklees, Calderdale and Wakefield.

"We are looking for the providers of short, snappy courses and new ideas to get people back into education or improve their work opportunities," said Pam Robinson, Development Manager for the IMWS.

"For example, we know that for women fashion is the hook that brings them in to learn more. But we want new ideas and from all across the ethnic diversity - Chinese, Sikh, Hindu, Caribbean, Bosnian - from anyone who can reach those people who have been traditionally hard-to-reach," she added.

The IMWS is based in an area with one of the highest rates of social and welfare deprivation in the country. "There is," says Pam, "a lack of education and lack of awareness of the kind of jobs that people can access.

"For example, a lot of Indian boys are high achievers when they leave school but they don't go on into higher education and appear to drop off the system. A lot of the girls might leave school at 16 or 18 and don't enter the labour market until they have married or had children. They are quite highly educated but don't have any skills," explained Pam.

The IMWS itself offers a number of courses aimed at helping young people into the jobs market, including fashion, childcare, IT, aromatherapy, health care and first-aid. It also has a job centre, Jobwise, run as part of the Minority Ethnic Outreach project.

The organisation has won a Queen's Award for Voluntary organisations for its work.

Any organisation interested in tendering a bid for funding has until tomorrow. Contact the IMWS on 01924 500696 or