Co-operative (Ad)Venture is an innovative social impact programme designed to help equip learners with the skills needed to transition between compulsory education and employment, training, or further education. It's tailored towards young people with learning difficulties, disabilities, and autism.

In May 2022, the College caught-up with some final-year students from Lochgelly High School in Fife, who took part in the programme, to find out what makes Co-operative (Ad)Venture so different to anything else out there, and why it's such a fun programme to be involved in.

What does Co-operative (Ad)Venture look like?

The programme is developed by the College and delivered together with our local partners on the ground. In Fife, this partner is Enable Scotland, a charity with a mission to create an equal society for every person with a learning disability.

As with all College learning, co-operative values and principles are embedded at every stage - even before the 11-week programme begins! In Fife, we worked with Enable Scotland and teaching staff at Lochgelly's Department of Additional Support to understand the needs and capabilities of the learners. This collaborative approach ensures that programme content is tailored to allow each participant to get the most out of taking part.

The aim of Co-operative (Ad)Venture is to empower young people to help tackle issues that are important to them. In urban Lochgelly, an old mining town, our young learners decided that improving the local area's green spaces was their number one priority - and the Lochgelly Planting Project was born!

My favourite part was planting. We all chose a bush and got to name it and care for it.

Harry, student at Lochgelly High School.

Enable Scotland's Employment Co-ordinator, Liam Flynn, told us: "The students are involved in everything and work together to make decisions. From designing the logo and coming-up with a name for the programme, to getting hands-on with litter-picks and planting sessions. They even recorded the voice-over for a video we created."

Co-operation in action

The (Ad)Venture students used their new co-operative learning to ensure that the process of choosing a logo was democratic. They presented their designs to the other pupils and staff from within the Department of Additional Support, and then organised a vote to decide on a winner.

We used the computers to design the logos and the other classes voted to pick their favourite.

Aidan, student at Lochgelly High School

The programme's name, the Lochgelly Planting Project, has a double meaning - referring to the physical act of re-greening and to the specific area the young learners worked to improve, known locally as 'The Planting'. Our young co-operators wanted to make the area more accessible and set about working with Fife Council to widen footpaths and clear rubbish from walkways. Thanks to their hard work, there is now plenty of room to manoeuvre a wheelchair, pram or mobility walker through the park. And this isn't the only benefit the wider community will get from the Lochgelly Planting Project! Vegetables that the (Ad)Venture participants planted earlier in the year in the school's allotment will be harvested in the summer and donated to a local foodbank.

Where possible, our Co-operative (Ad)Venture programmes also involve work experience in a co-operative enterprise or ethically driven organisation. Lochgelly teacher, Diane Stockdale, told us: "One student is normally very reserved and quiet, but the work experience aspect of this programme has brought out another side of him. His family tell me that after each day of work experience in the local Co-op store, he bounces in, full of stories of what he's done. He's genuinely proud to share his accomplishments and enjoys being treated as a valued member of the team by his co-workers."

It's this mix of practical accomplishments and co-operative values that sets Co-operative (Ad)Venture apart from other programmes of this nature.

Sadly, young people with learning difficulties, disabilities and autism are much more likely to experience loneliness and isolation, and less likely to find employment after leaving school. Every aspect of Co-operative (Ad)Venture is designed to help learners engage with each other and their community, develop a sense of self-worth, and help encourage them on to a positive post-school destination.

The Lochgelly Planting Project is just one of many examples of co-operation driving positive change within a community. Here's the video the students created to showcase their work:

Get in touch if you'd like to speak to us about how we could help young people in your area, or if you'd like to donate to the College to help fund a programme.

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