Wednesday, 19 September 2012

How Aspire aspired to a new future

For forty years West Sussex County Council has provided an Adult and Community Learning Service, running a range of courses across the county.

Demand has increased over the years, as has the variety of courses – in 1972 the Web and IT technology was definitely not around!

Keeping fit and various cookery classes have always been perennially popular, but these have altered over the years to reflect the changes and aspirations of society.

With a 806,900 population in West Sussex, and 21% of the population over the age of 65, we have a continuing demand for courses.

The service provides classes not only for those who have retired and those wanting to learn a new hobby, but those who want to improve their basic skills-set for further education or work opportunities, with recognised qualifications in many areas.

It is a service that we can be rightly proud of, with a high level of customer satisfaction, and it truly works at the heart of the community.

So developing and expanding the service to meet increased demand would seem a sensible way forward. This is why work on moving the service to a staff run social enterprise model has been underway for the last couple of years.

You may ask why has it taken so long, but for a highly regarded and effective community service we needed to ensure that the model was the right one, was sustainable and had a strong business case, and that took time.

Last Thursday I attended the launch of Aspire Sussex, the new staff run social enterprise for adult and community learning in the county.

Aspire Sussex will now be delivering adult and community learning across West Sussex on behalf of the County Council, and beyond as they build a client base and business.

Without the restriction of being tied to the County Council, they are able to expand and grow.

In my division I have already had enquiries about community learning in two of the villages I represent, and hopefully there will be courses available tailored to their particular need from Aspire.

Nationally there is a lot of interest in Aspire Sussex, and how it has developed from a County Council service into a social enterprise to meet the needs of the community.

So here's wishing Aspire a terrific future, and my thanks to all those who made it happen. To find out more about adult learning, go to www.westsussex.gov.uk/adulteducation.

Best wishes,

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