Staff, volunteers, supporters and students are delighted that Open Road is this month celebrating 10 years of improving the lives of young people in West Norfolk. 

During that time almost 500 teenagers who were either excluded or in danger of being excluded from school have been trained, inspired and uplifted by the charity.

Championed by David Lennard Jones, the then Director of Child Care Services for West Norfolk, Open Road was initially funded by the West Norfolk Partnership.

It opened on September 4, 2009, and the first students arrived three days later. Open Road now has the capacity to train 160 students and delivering professional qualifications from entry level through to level three apprenticeships.

It offers a safe and welcoming environment in which youngsters can remain engaged in education and training when regular school hadn’t appeared to be working for them. 

Originally aimed at 14-16 year olds, the motor vehicle theme offered a variety of educational and training opportunities and equipped the youngsters with transferable practical skills. 

As well as mechanics, students learn life skills such as honesty, reliability, respect, trust, dependability, punctuality and the willingness to work in a team.

Students from Downham Market were instrumental in Open Road being awarded £20,000 to help create the first two training rooms which are still in use today. 

A year after launching Open Road began working with older teenagers who were unemployed and looking to gain skills and work experience, 

Further expansion came in 2015 with the introduction of school holiday activities and projects with the Prince’s Trust. 

Open Road has continued to deliver motor vehicle training and from January a construction industry training programme was introduced after a request from the Short Stay School for Norfolk.

Now Open Road boasts a modern, well-equipped automotive workshop, as well as a fully kitted out joinery workshop and a construction training department. 

It offers a safe, supervised place of learning, while at the same time providing a fun and exciting environment in which young people can use their hands and their minds and begin to rebuild their self esteem.