15 Jul

Well, I can’t believe it – it’s the last day of term and I, along with many staff and students, finish today for a 7 week summer holiday! Although that means this will be my last blog until September, Horizons remains open all through the summer and you can see what they’re getting up to by checking our Facebook and Twitter pages.

This really has been an eventful year, with our move to Medtia Square and the launch of our franchise of Manchester College which allowed us to begin our Future Finders course. I began looking at Medtia Square around 18 months ago and it took us nearly a year to acquire the building – a lot of hard work but I can honestly say that it has more than paid off. I smile every day when I see the young people around the building, so happy on their new site. I see the real impact that this move has had on so many of them and I am excited to watch the provision grow when we welcome 35 new young people to the building who are on one of our ‘pathways’ courses. The students from Lumenus, Digit4ll and Activ8 will be based here full time from September and there will be lots of work going on over the summer to prepare the spaces for these groups.

Future Finders has been a very welcome addition to the New Bridge Group and it has been a privilege to work alongside Nicola Kirkland and Margaret Taylor over the past year to set this project up. They have worked tirelessly to ensure that each of our students got the best from their year with us. Our first year as a post 19 college has been extremely successful and our partnership with Manchester College has added so much value to what we can offer our students.

On Tuesday, I joined the group for an end of year day out in Manchester where we went to Dog Bowl for a game of bowling and a lovely lunch. We had a brilliant day and it has been sad to say our goodbyes. The students have had a wonderful year with us and I wish them all the very best in the future, whether they are moving on to paid employment or volunteering..

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We will be welcoming a new team of job coaches to our Future Finders course in September along with 13 new interns – I am really looking forward to working with them all.

New Bridge Horizons also continues to grow, with over 30 new young people joining us over the next few weeks to access our provision at both Medtia Square and the Learning Centre, together with around 18 new staff too! Can you believe that after just 5 months, we are already running out of space? Mr Quinn, at this rate we may need an extension soon!

Our young people have had another busy week at Horizons, here are a few pictures from a shopping trip (they’re dab hands with the selfserve checkouts now)..

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..a quick stop off at the café..

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..trying out the new touch screen for a spot of art..

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..and some fun quizzes about volunteering at Dr Kershaws..

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I want to finish this week’s blog by talking about my wonderful colleague, Sarah Lockwood, who is retiring today to spend more time with her family and her lovely daughter, Ava. I have had the privilege of working alongside Sarah for the past 11 years. Sarah and I were fortunate to go over to Cincinnati in America around 6 years ago to look at a ground-breaking provision for people with additional needs called ‘Project Search’ that Mr Quinn had heard about at a conference. The project paired businesses and young people with additional needs and gave opportunities for those young people to participate in 3 full-time, 12-week placements over one academic year with a view to getting paid employment at the end of the year… does this sound familiar?

At the time, supported internships were unheard of in the UK. It wasn’t something that was done here. Sarah and I spent a week looking at how this model worked, we also enjoyed a few beers and some lovely American food and we came back and worked together to set up the Bridging the Gap project at the Royal Oldham Hospital. That first year, 4 of our 6 interns got a paid job. They were the first 4 students to ever leave New Bridge and move into paid employment. The following year we set up a similar project at Manchester Metropolitan University and this past year, Sarah has been instrumental in supporting me to set up Future Finders – her son, Max, was one of the first students to sign up to the course.

Sarah has a passion for young people to achieve their potential and to move on to an appropriate destination when they leave our Group. Sarah has had a huge impact on many, many young people throughout her career but particularly in the past 6 years, where her ambition and vision has led to many young people leaving New Bridge with a job! Over the past 2 years, Sarah has also set up and been the head at Hollinwood Academy, another fantastic achievement which will have a huge impact on the young people of Oldham for years to come. Sarah, we will miss you! Your legacy will continue and I would like to thank you for being a loyal colleague and an inspiration to me. I look forward to continuing our work over the coming years and to supporting more New Bridge students into employment.

On that note, I wish you all a wonderful summer. I will be back with my weekly blog in September – in the meantime, you will find me on a sunbed in Barcelona with a Pina Colada!

Daniel
Future Finders Manager

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