A social enterprise based near Dorchester that supports students with learning disabilities and special education needs has taken over Thorngrove Garden Centre in Gillingham, Dorset, with the aim of using it as a training centre.
Employ My Ability says it will start work next month on regenerating the site and introduce training for post-16 special educational needs (SEN) students. A new café is planned for next year.
The Scope charity currently runs the centre as a special needs day care business, with 12 staff and 18 day service users, all of whom will continue under the new ownership.
Employ My Ability started out in The Walled Garden in Moreton in 2014 when its three founding partners set out to change SEN education experience locally. It provides ‘real life, real work experiences’ for students who gain skills, training and qualifications in the gardens, café, garden centre shop, small plant nursery, kitchen gardens and small animal area. The organisation currently has 30 SEN students accessing the site in Moreton. Courses include catering, retail, admin, horticulture and animal care.
Managing director Steve White said: “We are really excited to have been able to purchase the site and secure the future of the centre for the staff, its service users and members of the public.”
He added: “We are working with the all staff and service users at Thorngrove and are in the planning stages of a big redevelopment of the site. This will all start with the new café and spruce up of the site.
“We are looking forward to welcoming students on vocational courses from September 2018 and already have had several referrals for courses here.
Thorngrove Garden Centre growers remain busy cultivating plants for all year round plants sales and during the renovation work the centre will remain open to its service users and visiting members of the public for plant and gift sales.
For information about Employ My Ability call Steve White on 01929 405685 or email him,