Launch of Aspire Living & Aspire Works

Ian Austin MP was joined by guests, staff and students at Dudley College to celebrate its official opening of Aspire Living and Works on Friday 13 March 2015. The addition of Aspire Living and Works to the Dudley Learning Quarter town-centre campus provides specialist training facilities for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The Aspire facilities are located in two large residential properties, owned by the college since 1990, adjacent to the Broadway site. In 2012, £300k funding was secured from The Education Funding Agency (EFA) to redevelop the first of the properties to create an independent living unit.

As a result Aspire Living opened in 2013 and provides a simulated home environment where students can develop their home, organisational and creative skills in the adapted kitchen, lounge, bedroom, art/craft room and garden. The house also includes a sensory room, which can be transformed into a calming or stimulating environment depending on the needs of our students.

In the same year, a second grant of £550k was secured to develop the second house, which became Aspire Works. This facility focuses on employability, with students running an enterprise company selling customised items produced in the in-house digital printshop.  The house also boasts a café, several classrooms where students develop their English, maths and employability skills and an on-site shop selling produce grown by students in the Aspire garden.

Ian Austin, MP for Dudley North explained "I've always said that education and skills has to be our number one priority in Dudley to bring new jobs and new industries to our town.That's why I'm delighted to open Dudley College's new Aspire building where local students will be able to learn hands-on skills in its print shop, café and kitchen.

"The new college campus has transformed our town centre and is a credit to staff and I hope it continues to go from strength to strength."

The college's commitment to integrating employability skills into the curriculum for SEND students is endorsed by Ann Killin, Director of Dudley Aspire, who explained, "Celebrating the official opening of Aspire Living and Works is a milestone achievement for the college. These specialised resources have enabled our expert staff to design a range of courses which offer young people, with learning difficulties and disabilities, independence through the development of real employability and life skills.

"Securing the grants to design the bespoke training facilities gave the college the opportunity to enhance its current provision and provide a fantastic range of facilities for our students within the Dudley Learning Quarter. We are delighted by the students' progress since the Aspire facilities opened and believe their time at Dudley College will be more enjoyable and rewarding as a result of the new development."

Lewis Hands-Holland, 17 from Coseley, who's a SixPlus student benefitting from facilities at Aspire Works and Living told us. "Being at Dudley College has boosted my confidence and helped me with my work experience. I have learnt how to print wrapping paper, mugs and t-shirts and to do my designs on the computers to be transferred to cards and canvass. I have done two presentations with some of the other students in my group and we'll be meeting with some local businesses soon to provide their stationery."

Friday's event commenced with a presentation to a group of local SEND specialists, followed by a tour of the two houses. During the afternoon, Aspire Living and Works was open for local services, information providers and specialist schools to visit and view the facilities and meet the staff.