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The Corporation

Posted: 24/06/11

Foundation batting for disadvantaged young people

A charitable foundation is spearheading a major fundraising drive to set up a vocational support centre for hard-to-reach young people.

The Inspire and Achieve Foundation wants to repeat the success of the Ashfield Centre – a specialist facility run by West Nottinghamshire College – by opening one in Mansfield.

The pioneering centre, which provides specially-tailored vocational programmes to meet the social and educational needs of young people not in education, work or training, has transformed the lives of almost 250 learners since opening its doors in 2008.

Operating out of a building in Sutton-in-Ashfield away from the college’s mainstream provision, where learners feel secure, it also has smaller class sizes and provides a free bus service and breakfast to those arriving before 9am, which encourages good time management and ensures they have eaten before starting the day.

Most learners come with a complex range of issues including exclusion from school, home education following severe bullying, homelessness or living in supported accommodation, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, or previous drug and alcohol misuse.

But after completing programmes at Ashfield, the majority progress onto other education at the college or into employment.

Now the foundation is staging its second annual gala fundraising dinner at Lord’s Cricket Ground to help fund a second centre, in Mansfield.

Guest speaker at the black-tie evening dinner and auction – which will be held on Thursday 30 June in the historic Long Room at the ‘home of cricket’ – is former England cricket captain Mike Gatting OBE.

Former Indian cricketer and Indian Premier League referee, Farokh Engineer, will introduce the proceedings; with Professor David Greenaway, vice-chancellor at the University of Nottingham and patron of the Inspire and Achieve Foundation, giving the keynote speech.

Asha Khemka OBE, founder of the foundation and principal of West Nottinghamshire College, insisted a vocational support centre in Mansfield would enable the college to help even more young people get their lives back on track.

“The Inspire and Achieve Foundation believes that, as a society, we all have a role and responsibility to ensure each and every young person is given the chance and opportunity to progress and succeed.

“The Ashfield Centre has a remarkable track record of engaging disadvantaged young people and giving them the skills and confidence to access mainstream education or employment.

“Providing vulnerable learners with the right types of courses in a place they feel secure, together with personal support which can sometimes involve finding them somewhere to live, has proved a recipe for success.

“The foundation is keen to replicate this by offering hard-to-reach young people in Mansfield the same level of support.”

Mrs Khemka launched the Inspire and Achieve Foundation in 2008 after growing increasingly concerned about the affects that the decline of the coalmining and textiles industries were having on communities in Nottinghamshire.

Its patrons and trustees include high-profile business people, educationalists and politicians, who all share a passion for raising the aspirations and achievements of young people.

As well as tackling youth unemployment and disengagement, the foundation hopes to encourage businesses to ‘sponsor a learner’ for £30 a week to provide much-needed support towards the cost of food, transport and learning materials, following the government’s decision to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

The gala fundraising dinner is sponsored by Pearson Education Limited and White Rose Beauty Colleges.