Action Community Enterprises CIC was the brainchild of Louise Gardiner (better known as Lou) in 2011, initially started as a community training centre to provide hands-on mechanical engineering training to vulnerable adults. The consistent uptake of the training provision quickly established that there was a need for more vocational training and employment support in the community for all age groups. Growing organically, Lou’s vision for ACE has exceeded even her own expectations and now the vocational provision covers not just Engineering, but Construction, Catering, Horticulture, Health & Social Care and Hospitality and now employs 20 staff and has helped approximately 2500 people over the last 10 years, by providing skills, support, accredited qualifications and routes into employment.
Providing something for everyone in need within the community, ACE had in excess of 385 participants/learners on roll in 2020/2021, doing a range of activities from full time college programmes, part time school alternative provision, and many different employment programmes. Alongside supporting these individuals, ACE have supported 18 schools, 2 FE colleges, many other third sector organisations, statutory agencies, and local employers.
ACE supports employers large and small across the Broadland and South Norfolk regions, helping with post-Brexit and mid-Covid recruitment and delivering our increasingly successful employer engagement activities which lead to many successful employment opportunities for our participants. We also support other third sector organisations and CICs locally through sponsorship and business mentoring: Lou is a staunch supporter of other social enterprises and is a mentor and trustee for a number of other organisations.
Through the ACE Study Programme – a college equivalent programme for 16-18 year olds – we have a consistent vocational pass rate of over 90%, with many of our students going on to further education or into employment soon after leaving. With up to 60% of the younger students having an Education, Health and Care Plan due to social, emotional or mental health needs, this pass rate is exceptional and reflects the quality of the delivery, small group sizes and bespoke support packages ACE provide. ACE’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity within the community is evidenced by the demographics of both the staff and the participants, who have included travellers, asylum seekers, people with disabilities, those in the LGBTQ+ community and people of colour.
Staff and colleagues from ACE will join the other shortlisted organisations at the prestigious awards ceremony at the Top Of The Terrace later this month.
It’s a great honour to be shortlisted and we are up against some stiff opposition, but we are keeping our fingers and toes crossed that this time, we will be WINNERS!