First published on and in Christchurch Mail by Monique Steele

When he was at school, Bradley Holt was bullied by his peers because of his intellectual disability. His teacher told him he wasn’t worth teaching; he would never get a job or be able to support himself.

Now, he has a full-time job working at Kilmarnock Enterprises here in Christchurch and has 56 NCEA Level 1 credits under his belt.

“Look where I am today.”

Kilmarnock training academy graduates David Graham, Allan Burns, Despina Kouloubrakis, Rachel Meads and Bradley Holt at ...


Kilmarnock training academy graduates David Graham, Allan Burns, Despina Kouloubrakis, Rachel Meads and Bradley Holt at the Kilmarnock factory in Wigram, Christchurch.

Holt was one of five graduates of the Kilmarnock Training Academy, run by the Christchurch-based social enterprise company which employs and supports people with intellectual disabilities.

The training academy, a partnership with Hagley College for one-on-one learning, was a 12-week course for five Kilmarnock employees learning literacy, numeracy and other skills through NCEA Level 1 unit standards to improve employment opportunities for those with barriers to education.

The graduates, ranging from 30 to 50 years of age, recalled their time at primary and secondary school as a struggle due to their learning disabilities.

“We were like the odd ones out and were kind of left behind,” Holt said, who gained his first NCEA credits with the pilot programme.

“The teacher once said I wasn’t worth teaching,” fellow graduate Allan Burns, 42, said. “I struggled.”

“I struggled,” said graduate David Graham, 49.

“So did I,” said Rachel Meads, 36.

Kilmarnock CEO Michelle Sharp said the pilot was successful because it addressed the need for specialised education for those with learning difficulties. She said special education was still a major issue in local schools today.

“The education system doesn’t suit everybody,” she said.

“Opportunities for school leavers with disabilities are also quite limited. And for further education there was very little out there.”

She said the programme Kilmarnock was offering was unique, and following a successful pilot, there are plans to expand the programme.

“These guys proved this is absolutely what we should be doing and on a much larger scale.

“We want to be part of their employment journey.”

Sharp wanted to expand the programme to firstly accept more students within the Kilmarnock community, then anyone in need of the programme, such as school leavers.

Kilmarnock is crowd-funding on PledgeMe for $50,000 to continue growing its programme, accepting a class of 20 students from Kilmarnock for the first year.

The second group of students, people who work in the Kilmarnock factory, will graduate in two weeks time.

Currently around 90 people work at “Basecamp” in the Wigram factory, in a variety of roles including labelling and packaging food products, building toys and in recycling depots.

This year the social enterprise celebrates 60 years of serving the special needs community.

 – Stuff

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