High Sheriff praises expansion plans at charity's training centre in King's Lynn
Sheriff of Norfolk visited Open Road West Norfolk's Lynn centre on Friday, the same day it announced an exciting expansion into a new area.
Charles Watt visited the charity's premises on Hardwick Industrial Estate to take a look at its facilities and learn more about its work.
Open Road offers automotive training to young people experiencing difficulties in mainstream education - and from September it’s going to branch out into construction.
The High Sheriff was joined by Open Road West Norfolk supporters as well as the charity’s staff, students and former trainees who have achieved success.
Charles Watt said: “I’ve heard that Norfolk has among the highest rates of school exclusions in the UK. It’s a complicated issue, but services like Open Road West Norfolk give young people struggling at school the chance to get away from that environment, to learn about vehicles and mechanics.
“After a while, as they start learning, they begin to feel more confident, better about themselves and want to make a go at real life. You can see the impact it has on these young people’s lives from the success stories we’ve met and heard about today.
“It’s brilliant to hear the service is expanding into construction training. For all enterprises, expanding into a new area is challenging and has to be treated with care – and I wish them the very best with this new move.”
Among those whom he met was Daniel Drew, of Lynn, a former Open Road West Norfolk student who recently started an apprenticeship with Hyundai.
At school, he struggled with concentrating and sitting through lessons and when he was offered the chance to attend Open Road at the age of 15, his passion for cars and mechanics shone through.
Daniel said: “I could be myself when I came here and was often the first person to finish the tasks, and that really helped me with my confidence.
“Our very first job was an engine rebuild and it was brilliant. I felt I was actually good at something after finding school difficult for such a long time.”
The news of Open Road’s expansion has been warmly received by organisations including The Engage Trust, which is already in talks about making the most of the new services as excluded students in West Norfolk currently travel to Norwich to use its facilities.
Young people in West Norfolk, many of whom may struggle at school, are able to visit Open Road’s modern and well-equipped facilities to learn the ins and outs of vehicle mechanics - and have the opportunity to gain industry-recognised qualifications from the experience.
Schemes are also available for 16-24 year olds who want to achieve a motor vehicle qualification, gain work experience in the workshop or receive career guidance on their path to employment.
Terry Smith, Trustee of Open Road West Norfolk, said: “Over the summer, we will be busy preparing the workshop to cater for construction training ready for the September intake. We will be celebrating our 10th anniversary next year, so this expansion really is an exciting milestone to add to our journey.”