Employ My Ability is evolving in Gillingham


Thorngrove Garden Centre’s EmployMyAbility (EMA) campus is expanding to offer more opportunities to young people with special needs

Working in the Secret Garden Cafe

Regular visitors to Thorngrove and readers of our BV column will be aware that our garden centre and café also function as a campus for young people with special educational needs and disabilities. They study across a number of programmes and gain valuable work experience in our hospitality and retail sectors of the business.
Our unique learning environment allows them to build confidence and skills in a real-world scenario, as they complete their qualifications and prepare for adulthood.

EMA students enjoy real-world placements at businesses such as Cranborne Chase Cider

This academic year we’ve made additions to – and continue to develop – the Thorngrove campus, to allow for a much wider scope of opportunities for the young people who join us. One of the most exciting developments is the imminent arrival of animals – starting with guinea pigs and rabbits! One of our external students even built a house for two female ferrets who will soon be joining us too.
Working with the plants and retail stock, serving customers in the shop and in the café have previously been the key areas of vocational qualifications for our students, but soon they’ll be hands-on with furry friends for animal studies right here in Gillingham.
This is a key factor in our vision for Thorngrove as ‘more than a garden centre’, and we’re proud to offer these kinds of courses and diverse environments for young people as they gain experience and look to employment in the community in future.

Animal studies will be a popular new course at Thorngrove

Our students and social care day service users also venture out on external work experience placements to brilliant businesses in the wider community such as The Ancient Technology Centre, Cranborne Chase Cider, Dorset and Somerset Animal Rescue, the Walled Garden café at Castle Gardens, and one budding journalist, Maddie, writes for the very magazine you’re reading right now (see Maddie’s column on P.92)! Working in partnership with these businesses proves beneficial both for them and for the young people.
If you’re a local business interested in working with us at Employ My Ability and think you might be able to offer work experience to our students, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We love to show the progress on our website and social media too, which always brings such positive comments and feedback from those who follow our story.

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