TEN graduates were awarded certificates after becoming the first to complete a new course run by a charity which supports those with learning disabilities.

The students passed a BTEC in hospitality with The Cafe Project, in Brighton Hill, and also learned about work skills and basic food hygiene.

Linda Begbie, a tutor from Basingstoke College of Technology (BCoT), in Worting Road, worked with the students in the Cafe Dome, in Brighton Hill, where they learned how to cook, and developed front of house skills.

The Cafe Dome was opened in September 2011 by the The Cafe Project, a charity which offers young people with learning disabilities the chance to train and work in a purpose-built kitchen and cafe, open to the public.

John Wright, chair of The Cafe Project trustees, founded the charity after being inspired to set up the project by his son, who has learning difficulties. He wanted to offer his son and others the chance to gain experience and qualifications by working in a real food and drink outlet, serving customers.

Anthony Bravo, principal at BCoT, presented the certificates to the students who had completed the course.

Some will now continue with further training at the Cafe Dome, taking higher level courses, while others have managed to find part-time work at companies including McDonald’s, or volunteering opportunities.

George Hooper, one of the trustees, said: “The importance of running this project is to help build bridges and empower these young people to work and be part of society.

“We started the project because we found a gap where students with learning disabilities leave college at 18 or school at 16 when they have their confidence built up but there’s nowhere to go.

“We were all very proud of the graduating students – it was very emotional. We had 80 people come along. The students have come out with skills for the future.”

The Cafe Project will soon start a new academic year, with 14 students – 12 in the cafe and two following a new course in online trading. They hope to soon benefit from an outside dining area, funded by £4,500 from De La Rue.

There are still places available on this year’s course. For details, visit thecafeproject .co.uk.