Exhall Grange

New cafe opened by Exhall Grange School students

Students at a specialist school in Coventry have opened a new café to improve their future job prospects and cater for nearby businesses.

Café Grange at Exhall Grange Specialist School is open for business after Coventry-based PET-Xi Training helped teachers to successfully apply for a £40,000 Skills for Employment grant from Warwickshire County Council.

Warwickshire County Council has been allocated an extra £600,000 for the Skills for Employment Programme for 2018-20 following the success of the initial scheme, which was a £2.4 million programme started in 2015, that is designed to help businesses tackle skills shortages and enable young people to become work-ready.

Over 40 people attended the official launch of Café Grange including Head Teacher Christine Marshall and Glenn Robinson, Skills for Employment Manager at Warwickshire County Council.

Caroline Parkhouse, Assistant Headteacher – Post 16 at Exhall Grange Specialist School in Easter Way, Ash Green, said this new initiative would open up career opportunities for students interested in catering and hospitality.

“The café is based in an old school kitchen which hadn’t been used for a long time and had become a storage room so we have been able to use the grant to totally transform the area,” she said.

“We are open during school hours and we are looking at opportunities to supply lunches for nearby businesses at Prologis Park.

“The idea behind the café is to support our students with employment opportunities whether that is through internships, work placements or apprenticeships.

“We are working with Open College Network West Midlands who have written bespoke courses in food hygiene which will be a year-long course where students can study at their own pace. This is an enterprise which we hope will be life-changing for some of our students.”

Year 13 student Heidi Davis said this is the start of a new and fun time for the whole school and surrounding businesses.

She said: “The food we serve is really tasty and all homemade. The café which, until now was unofficially open, is immensely popular.

“I have been working in the café every Monday and some Tuesdays and Thursdays. As I am currently heading towards a career in catering, being in the café has helped me to learn new skills and develop the ones that I already have.

“I see it as a really good opportunity for all the students, whether they want a catering career or not.

“I think this is because it is fun and shows you new skills such as customer service, independence, money management and business understanding but, most importantly, we are all working towards a food hygiene qualification. This has really helped me decide my career path.”

Gary Drake, head of contracts at PET-Xi Training in Westwood Business Park, said this was a really exciting opportunity for students at Exhall Grange Specialist School.

“The school has a special place in the hearts of staff at PET-Xi Training since it is where our managing director Fleur Sexton was a teacher before she launched the business,” he said.

“We were delighted to support the school with the application process because we could see the difference it would make to the students.

“Being involved in the creative aspect of cooking as well as learning important life skills such as managing money is really improving the students’ confidence and skills which will be vital in the future when they are applying for internships or apprenticeships.”

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council, said: “The Council was particularly pleased to support this fantastic project. We are committed to ensuring that young people with disabilities get the chance to gain valuable work experience and put into practice skills they are developing in their places of learning.

“Currently, only around 15% of people with learning disabilities are employed, yet we know that young people with disabilities are skilled, reliable, and want to work. Our ambition is to establish 100 supported internships across Warwickshire by 2021.

“We are looking to work with around 20 businesses to achieve this in the next three years, so if you are a business and would like to be part of this initiative, please get in touch – we would love to talk to you.”

A supported internship is an unpaid work placement of at least six months where a young person with special education needs or disability, is supported at work by a job coach funded by government.

Businesses interested in finding out more about Warwickshire County Council’s Supported Internships, or any other aspect of the Skills for Employment programme can visit: skillsforemployment@warwickshire.gov.uk or call 01926418027

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