Hard work paid off

At the start of this academic year at St John’s, Brighton, East Sussex, James had a clearly identified career goal – to become a baggage handler at Gatwick airport.

Through research into the role of baggage handler conducted during his time at E12, James came to understand that customer service skills were integral to the role of baggage handler. James identified work in a supermarket as a good way of developing these skills. E12 staff contacted learning and development team at Cooperative Food supermarkets, who were able to offer James work experience at a local store James.

Following a formal interview James was offered two work experience shifts per week. Once he had started James quickly became a member of their team. His responsibilities at work involve organising stock, taking in deliveries and restocking shelves. James has taken full responsibility for communicating with his employers, informing them when he will be absent, and even negotiating a change of days when he needed it.

Within weeks of starting his placement, the manager approached James and E12 staff suggesting he put James forward for vacancies at other stores. James’ confidence and competence clearly paid off, as is reflected by the manager’s keenness to offer him paid work so quickly. Jame took up a paid role at the company at the end of the academic year.

She’s so keen to work

Determined, hard-working, resilient, enthusiastic, positive….these are all words to describe one of WESC Foundations’s amazing learners, Susan, who has just secured her first paid employment role at KFC in Exeter.

Despite her visual impairment Susan, aged 22, stood out to the managers at KFC during her year’s work experience placement so much so that when a vacancy for Lobby Host came up Susan was their first choice to fill the position.
Susan, originally from Wales, has been a full-time residential learner at WESC Foundation for the past four years. She studies an NCFE Award in Occupational Studies, AQA Functional Skills, BTEC Work Skills, and AQA Art.
Throughout her time at WESC Susan also has successfully participated in a variety of work placements including Sainsbury’s, WESC’s own radio station and social enterprise charity shops, along with SENSE café in Exeter city centre.
Skills such as mobility and orientation, money handling, ICT, food preparation etc. that Susan has learnt at WESC have all helped her prepare for work and gain employment.
Talking about her new job Susan says: “I am so happy to have been employed at KFC. I absolutely loved my work experience there and was so thrilled to have been successful with the interview.
“Although the role at KFC is similar to my previous work placements, it is much more challenging as it’s very busy but this has taught me how to prioritise my tasks.”
Rebecca Marks, KFC’s Restaurant General Manager, says: “At KFC we are supportive of people with disabilities where we can be. We have many staff with disabilities who work here including people with hearing loss and learning difficulties. Susan is a valued member of staff at KFC. She arrives at work full of smiles and keen to work. It’s lovely to have Susan as part of the team. She always makes an effort to talk to people. I think in every organisation there is always a job that people with disabilities can do with the right support.”

I want to be independent

Charis has completed her course at Fairfield Farm College and is looking for a house to share in Devon, or a flat of her own so she can be as independent as possible.

She is the first student to have completed an induction course with Spurgeons, along with a DBS check and had a placement at ‘little learners’ for a while, this was a nursery placement based on play and engagement.
She was also Fairfield’s first student to gain a placement at the local primary school, helping out in reception – brilliant with young children a natural in the classroom and of course fully vetted by the police.
Along with her vocational achievements Charis has also gained her Ascentis qualification in Using Employability Skills Entry Level 3 by achieving 140 credits. She has also gained her OCR Functional Skills at Entry Level 2.
Charis is currently working with her social worker to look for placements in Devon. This includes the Donkey Sanctuary, but also will include some of the local schools and playgroups as Charis now has her DBS check and has been working in the local primary school.

Praised for his motivation

Luke enrolled at Hedleys College back in September 2014 on a two-year specialist Vocational Programme progressing to a Hedleys Supported Internship.This programme is primarily based at an employer’s premises, intended to enable young people with learning difficulties and disabilities to achieve sustainable, paid employment by learning in the workplace.

Since September 2016, Luke, who is 22, has attended college two days per week developing a range of transferable functional and independence skills. His work placement at the Oxford Centre Café in Newcastle is three days per week.Luke’s kitchen assistant role includes setting up the counter and food preparation.
The employer has praised Luke for being focused, motivated, using his own initiative, being polite and helpful. Luke is now able to follow instructions and he only needs a few prompts to carry out his daily work tasks following the strict hygiene procedures, and working to a high professional standard. In July 2017 Luke completed his education at Hedleys College. Luke’s current employer has extended his contract and, with continued support from Access to Work Funding, Luke will be in supported employment three days per week.

Lee wins national competition

A teenager who was so shy he’d pull his hoodie over his head so people wouldn’t speak to him proved how far he has come – by giving a moving speech at the national HSBC Young Enterprise Awards.

Lee won the national special achievement award in recognition of his personal development from a shy and nervous person to an outgoing and confident young man and managing director of National Star’s Young Enterprise company.

Not only did he collect his award, Lee, who is a Skills for Work student at National Star, spoke in front of almost 500 people at the gala dinner BFI, London.

“I couldn’t believe it when they said I had won,” said Lee. “When I went on to the stage to collect my award they asked me about my goals for the future and told them that I had had a paid job.

“Then they asked me what words of inspiration I would give others and I said ‘listen to your thoughts and feelings and ask for advice’.”

Michael Mercieca, Chief Executive of Young Enterprise, said: “Lee overcame his extreme shyness to lead his team to win the Team Programme area final and he captivated myself and the whole audience with his eloquent and inspiring acceptance speech – Lee fully deserves this award.”

“When Lee first arrived at National Star he was the most shy, quiet and nervous person I had ever met, partly from his experience of being badly bullied in his previous mainstream school,” said James Garrod, Enterprise Developer at National Star.

“He wore a hoodie at all times with the hood up to cover his face. He wouldn’t speak to anyone on his course and would not join in any activities.”

Lee has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. The 18-year-old said hiding in his hoodie was his way of coping with bullying.

“At lunchtime I would sit with my blazer over my head so that people wouldn’t talk to me and the bullies leave me alone,” he said.

“I never felt included. That changed at National Star. There I was asked my opinion and encouraged to voice my concerns.”

He reluctantly agreed to be managing director of National Star’s Young Enterprise company – called PIP for Personal Image Printing – after voted in by the team.

Lee, who is a Skills for Work student at National Star, is currently working two days a week in a placement at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. It is hoped that it will become paid work when he leaves National Star later this month.

“All my life I thought that I had a disability and who in their right mind would hire me. I always used to put myself down. Now I think I can be independent and have my own life,” he said.

So excited to have a job

In his final year at RNIB College Loughborough, David was identified as a possible student for the college’s new Supported Internship programme. It is a four-day internship programme with two full days with an employer and two days building employability, literacy and numeracy skills at College.

RNIB College partnered with Diam whose social inclusion programme has helped a number of people return to the workplace in a supported and sustainable environment, enabling them to regain confidence and reclaim their independence, both socially and financially. They are based locally in Loughborough but are an international organisation and have a strong interest in social inclusion which really helped us get started.
David’s Supported Internship was in the Goods In/Goods Out section so he has put his IT skills to use for stock checking, data entry and using databases. He enjoys using computers and helping people using his IT knowledge and got on well with the administration work he was tasked to do.
He settled in quickly and gets on well with the team, due to his friendly and chatty nature. David also joined the RNIB College Referrals and Admissions team one day a week providing them with administration support.
David is now employed by Diam. He’s just signed a one-year contract working eight hours a week.
“I’m pleased with what I have learnt; I’m so excited to be working at Diam,” says David. “I can’t seem to stop being excited about it, I’m over the moon.”
Diam Production Director Steve Ison-jacques said: “Diam’s objective is to remove barriers, recruit the most diverse talent and get the best people for the job. Diam and RNIB have been working closely for the past three years and both are rightfully proud of what David has achieved. David is an inspiration to us all.”

Natspec Games hailed a success

More than 250 students with disabilities and learning difficulties gathered from across the country for a national games tournament, with one match so close it had to be decided with a measuring tape.

The Natspec Games saw students from 23 specialist colleges compete in sports including boccia, goalball, javelin and five-a-side football at three different venues.

Events took place at the Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) in Hereford, Communication Specialist College Doncaster and at Sportcity in Manchester.

Natspec Student Games 2017
Natspec Student Games 2017
Natspec Student Games 2017
Natspec Student Games 2017
Natspec Student Games 2017
Natspec Student Games 2017
Natspec Student Games 2017
Natspec Student Games 2017

In one tense boccia battle at the RNC, the result was so close the referee’s tape measure came out to confirm the winner.

John Lynch, Director of Learning and Curriculum at RNC, said the event was about sportsmanship and the students learning from each other.

“All of the matches were played in the right spirit and were a great reflection of the ethos that all of the colleges have,” he said. “For some, it was the first time that they had tried one or more of the sports, which is what the games are all about.”

Communications Specialist College Doncaster laid on games including new age kurling, volleyball, archery and table cricket.

The college’s sports tutor John Nugent said the staff were thrilled to be one of the regional venues that had been included as a venue to allow more colleges to access the games.

Each of the attending colleges are members of Natspec – the membership association for organisations which offer specialist provision for students with learning disabilities or disabilities. Natspec partnered with the Seashell Trust from Cheadle Hulme to organise the event.

The games were initially started by the Seashell Trust in 2010 before expanding in to a larger regional tournament and partnering with Natspec which helped fund the event.

Students who attended the games at Sportcity also competed in javelin, shot put and bean bag throwing with the results going forward to a national trophy against results from the other regional events.

Clare Howard, Natspec CEO, said: “Natspec wants to build on the hard work of members such as the Seashell Trust who have organised successful events every year – we hope that new funding from Sport England and others will help us to consolidate this as a national event every year.

“We know that sport engages, motivates and inspires students and can have a lasting effect on self-esteem, confidence and many other aspects of their lives, so it is essential that students with disabilities get the same opportunities.”

Race about to start

Student Voice Parliament

Students with disabilities are uniting to ensure their voices are heard on a national level.

The Student Voice Parliament has been launched by Natspec, the membership association for organisations which offer specialist provision for students with learning difficulties and disabilities, in partnership with the NUS.

The Parliament met for the first time at Queen Alexandra College in Birmingham. Twenty student union representatives from 13 specialist colleges attended.

“It was a good opportunity to talk about what kind of issues we are facing and how many of them are similar,” said Harvey Duncan, who is a first year media student at Hereward College in Coventry.

He said one of the big issues was access to public transport, in particular the appropriate use of wheelchair space on buses.

One of the biggest concerns of the Student Voice Parliament was the issue of funding for education. Students attending specialist colleges are funded by their local authorities.

Budget pressures mean it can be just days or weeks before term starts when young people learn whether they have a college place.

“It’s unfair that others can go to college in a straightforward way but young people with disabilities must wait, often until the last minute. That uncertainty about our futures is hugely stressful,” said Harvey.

Cameron McQueenie, a third year student at Beaumont College, Lancaster, agrees. “I feel very strongly about this. You shouldn’t have to fight for funding for education. An able-bodied person can get an education but a disabled person has to fight for everything.”

The 21-year-old has welcomed the established of the Parliament and the involvement of the NUS, which will help the student unions at specialist colleges develop their confidence and campaigning skills.

“This partnership and the Parliament will give young people with disabilities a greater sense of power. If we stand together our voices will get louder and louder and the politicians at the Houses of Parliament will have to listen,” he said.

Clare Howard, chief executive of Natspec, said the Student Voice Parliament, and the partnership with NUS, will help students talk to policy makers and get involved in projects at a national level.

“Most Natspec colleges have student unions and that learner voice is important for quality provision,” she said. “The NUS is helping the students find their voice, and the students are helping the NUS include students with disabilities in their wider work.”

Another issue raised at the event was the need for disability awareness to be a compulsory part of the curriculum.

“There are so many widespread misconceptions about disability and those misconceptions  can have a direct impact on people with disabilities, such as being a barrier for someone getting a job,” said Rebecca Thorne, who is in her first year at Queen Alexandra College and studying creative media.

“We struggle to get funding and those who make those decisions need to remember we are not numbers, we are individuals.

“People with disabilities can contribute to the community but they need the right education and training to take up those opportunities.”

“It was a pleasure to be be at the first meeting of the Natspec Student Voice Parliament and to hear their concerns and priorities for the next year,” said Rachel O’Brien, NUS Disabled Students’ Officer elect.

“As member colleges of NUS it is important NUS and the NUS Disabled Students’ Campaign incorporate their demands into our work for the coming years, as often these differ from students in mainstream education.

“We must listen to the voices of students who have for too long been ignored by NUS.

“I look forward to working with the Student Voice Parliament in the future in fighting for the changes they want to see in their colleges.”