The Hamlet is an adult vocational learning centre for young adults (aged 19 to 25) living with a range of additional needs. Born out of a necessity to reimagine Hope School & College’s post-19 provision, The Hamlet’s raison d’être is to provide a working environment in which young people with additional needs can learn and grow, ensuring that when they leave us they leave with the skills necessary to attain, maintain and thrive in employment. After a successful pilot year housed at Hope (alongside their other successful Grange provision) we have now moved into our own premises at the idyllic Three Sisters Recreation Area in Ashton, taking over the former rangers’ house and visitors’ centre, and are well on our way to establishing ourselves in the heart of a thriving community.
Our journey to this point has not been without its challenges. Once we secured the premises through Wigan Council, extensive remodelling and decoration was required throughout both buildings to bring them up to the necessary standard to be the home of the Hamlet dream. Whist the majority of this renovation was supported and made possible by donations, our trainees gave what time and effort they could.
Decisions on which working environments (vocations) The Hamlet offers are hugely informed by our trainees; their input (over the course of numerous meetings, discussions and consultations) brought us to the conclusion that IT, Graphic design and print production were fields they would like to explore and gain competency in. This was the beginning of Lakeside Printing.
The renovations took up the entire academic year. Meanwhile, we got to work at The Grange. Around the same time, we were securing the lease on the Hamlet buildings, we got in touch with The Karten Network in the hope that they would support us in funding the equipment to get Lakeside off the ground. Thanks to Karten Network funding we were able to purchase equipment necessary to turn ourselves into a fully-functional print and design outfit, capable of completing projects for the public, for corporate clients and fulfil the promotional and decorative needs of our other vocations. Andrew Wrigley, now in his second year on the Hamlet team remembers: “It was quite hard to envision what Gemma [Crompton – Provision lead] had in mind. We had literally nothing to start with. We had to find basic equipment like tables and chairs. We were looking for a TV and couch so we could have something to do in our free time.” Karten’s support enabled us to secure a wide-format printer, heated presses and a plotter cutter for our manufacturing side of operations and two iPads and two PCs equipped with Photoshop® software for our design arm. Thanks to this, though we were still waiting for The Hamlet to take shape physically, the goals and aspirations of our team and trainees were on the road to becoming reality.
Karten’s investment in the Hamlet and Lakeside is already bearing fruit. Our young people are already developing their skills in design and manufacturing, producing canvases and mugs for the public. Most recently we have secured a corporate client, producing promotional material for a teaching agency that specialise in staff with experience working with children and young people with additional needs (SEN Recruitment). The funding also bought us a CTOUCH® interactive screen which makes designing accessible and hands-on and also complements our conference suite, ensuring that The Hamlet is a viable, attractive and competitive offering to those looking for meeting rooms and facilities.
Though still in its infancy, The Hamlet is well on its way to achieving its long term intentions. We look to become a busy, thriving hub and beacon for young people with additional needs in our area. However much we grow, we will always remember that Karten helped us along the way and we are happy to be part of a network with such a noble aim.
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