New £736,000 centre for teens who cannot cope with school
December 21, 2012
Teenagers who cannot cope with school could be trained for work at a new £736,000 centre.
The project in Winnersh would be set up as a modern workplace with cutting edge technology, a recording studio and dance and drama rooms.
The Skills and Enterprise Centre, known as Aspire, would cater for up to 100 14-16 year-olds and older teenagers at risk of becoming a NEET – the Government’s term for those not in education, employment or training.
At the end of May there were 84 young people in Wokingham aged between 16 and 19 classed as NEET for longer than six months.
The majority of funding is already in place for the centre and Wokingham Borough Council’s executive was expected to approve a final grant to get it off the ground at its meeting yesterday.
In a report to councillors, the proposed centre is described as an ‘innovative, practical learning environment’ where teenagers will learn behaviour ‘appropriate to their future working lives’.
A survey in July 2011 by the Berkshire Education Partnership organisation on work readiness revealed employers found young people had weak literacy and numeracy, arrived late and struggled to complete a day’s work.
The new centre at the IQ Winnersh business park would be a partnership between education and commerce to give young people skills and attitudes to enable them to hold down a job.
It would be modelled on a successful Aspire project in Slough and could also cater for teenagers not capable of studying A-levels but required by new laws to stay in education or training until the age of 18 from 2014.
The plan is supported by the Wokingham Federation of Secondary Schools, which will be the main user, and by SEGRO, owner of IQ Winnersh, which will encourage firms on the park to offer apprenticeships, work placements and work experience.
The executive was expected to agree to lease the unit for 10 years and to give £150,000 from developer contributions towards the start-up.
The rest of the initial cost would be paid for with a dedicated schools grant of £321,000, a performance related grant of £213,000 and £56,000 capital funding underspend from the Superfast Broadband Project.
Once up and running next September, the centre is expected to be self-funding with revenue from pupil referrals and renting out the rooms and equipment in the evenings and at weekends.
Councillor Charlotte Haitham Taylor, executive member for children’s services, said: "This is a very exciting partnership project between local schools, business and Wokingham Borough Council that will create a state-of-the-art learning centre in the heart of Winnersh IQ.
"The focus will be on supporting practical and vocational learning opportunities for young people and improving the prospects of entry into employment for those who might otherwise struggle to secure those so vital formal qualifications.
"The plan is also for community groups to be able to use the facilities including a recording studio, a radio station, conference room and workshop."
Janette Gower, of Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce, said: "Any initiative that improves the skills of young people is very positive."