Employ My Ability was founded in 2013, by professionals with experience across Children’s and Adults services in a range of settings.
The Department of Education’s Green Paper on Support and Aspirations instigated a change in direction for supporting young people. The founders all shared a common belief that:
- Young People with SEN have the potential to gain meaningful work in a range of vocational settings.
- Environment is key to people learning and these environments must be real and age appropriate to
- support young people to develop into the adult working world.
With these shared beliefs, much hard work, and a commitment to their vision, Employ My Ability was born. Development began at The Walled Garden Moreton. Potting sheds were replaced with training rooms, and the new Dovecote Café. The kitchen garden was a barren piece of land with 6 foot high brambles, so our expert estate manager, ably assisted by 3 helpful pigs set about the development of the space into what it is today. We also transformed what was a caravan and storage park into our family park, and animal area.
The Walled Garden welcomed its first students in September 2015, we continued to develop our qualifications and vocational areas, and then opened the gardens and café to the public.
In October 2017 we expanded EMA with the acquisition of Thorngrove Garden Centre in Gillingham from The Charity Scope. Thorngrove was already running a day service provision, so this suited EMA’s vision already! The Garden Centre and its surroundings were run down and needed lots of redevelopment and modernising to make it suitable for its current day service provision and the addition of education.
The next year was spent developing the grounds and classrooms, introducing The Secret Garden Café, improving the environment of the site, decorating the shop and having another glass house put up. With horticulture experts on hand, as well as a sustainable business approach and ethos, Thorngrove is now one of the fastest growing garden centres in Dorset.
In September 2019 Thorngrove opened to its first 8 education students studying functional skills and a variety of vocational qualifications, and to date we have provided education and work experience to over 63 students across both sites.