School (and college) may be out for summer, and we’re hoping everyone has the chance for a nice relaxing break, but we’re back with a summer round-up of stories from Natspec’s member colleges. Find out all about work placement success, including some reflections written by a student, getting involved in sporting programmes, and a vital summer festivity: celebrating student achievements.
We’d like to thank everyone working in specialist colleges for all the hard work they’ve put in this year, and wish all the students who are moving on good luck in their journeys!
At Natspec, we’re in the thick of planning for the upcoming academic year. Make sure you’ve checked out our upcoming programme of events and training, as we’ve got some exciting things coming up, including a return to face to face for the TechAbility conference.
Table of contents
Waitrose Placement Reflections by Ethan at Homefield
This piece was written by Ethan, who is a supported internship student at Homefield College.
Hi, my name’s Ethan and last term I started my 5-week work experience at Waitrose. Whilst there, I learnt lots of new skills, which will help me to secure a job in the future.
My role at Waitrose
I had to do a variety of practical tasks throughout the placement, some of which were the following:
- Working stock – unloading stock off the crates onto shelves
- Facing forward – moving stock to the front of the shelves
- Till shadowing – watching a staff member using a till
- Layouts – rearranging the shelves
- Promo prep – preparing the shelves for the new promotional stock
I found the placement extremely beneficial.
What I enjoyed
I particularly enjoyed working with Waitrose colleagues Katie, Jenna, Kim, Nik, Maxine and Laura. The team were very supportive and took me under their wings.
The variety of jobs kept me busy throughout my placement. Waitrose was so accommodating to me and helped me feel more confident in myself when working there.
The break room atmosphere was really great too and I enjoyed speaking to the staff when I was in there with them. I was included in conversations and felt part of the team on and off the shop floor.
What I found difficult and how I handled it
When customers asked me difficult questions that I didn’t know the answer to – so I directed them to one of my colleagues.
Some of the jobs could get too repetitive and dull sometimes for me – so I asked my manager to give me a different job to break up the day.
My Top Tips
Overall, I really liked my placement and would recommend it to others. Here are my top tips for working at Waitrose for other students that work or want to work there in the future:
- Don’t be afraid to speak up or ask your manager for advice when something is bothering you
- Take each task at your own pace, there’s no need to rush as it’s not a race
- Always remain self-aware and professional when on the shop floor
To Waitrose (Mountsorrel) and the staff that worked there – thank you very much for the work experience, I really enjoyed my time with you and I had a great experience.
Orchard Hill College Outstanding Achievement Awards 2022
Orchard Hill College hosted an evening of celebrations at Epsom Downs Racecourse for students leaving this year.
Kelly Phillips, Principal, said; “It was very special to be celebrating in person again. It was a truly wonderful opportunity for students to celebrate their hard work with staff, families, carers and guests. We are so proud of how hard all the students have worked, which was evident from the range of destinations they are moving on to after college.”
Each student was awarded with a certificate marking the culmination of their studies as well as a yearbook so they can remember their time at College. Special guests to help present the awards, included The Mayor of London Borough of Sutton Councillor Trish Fivey, Tony Foot, Strategic Finance Director from Department for Education and Dame Caroline Allen, previous CEO to Orchard Hill College & Academy Trust.
Bridge College learners took part in the GreaterSport Indoor British Rowing
Bridge College learners had a fantastic opportunity to take part in the GreaterSport Indoor British Rowing event in Manchester. Staff at Bridge College are all incredibly proud of everyone that took part, especially as it was their first time trying indoor rowing. Students even surprised themselves by winning the Further Education team relay.
The day involved learning lots of new skills and trying new things. Students were excited to take part but also a little anxious. Learner ‘A’ particularly struggled to access the hall to watch the other students participating due to the noises from the rowing machines. The event hosts, GreaterSport, were fantastic. To help ‘A’ take part, they sourced some ear defenders which really helped dull the noise. Once ‘A’ had ear defenders and accessed the rowing machines, he absolutely loved trying out indoor rowing. He started his race and was in second place then with 10 seconds to go, he hurtled to the finish line and won!
The event was fully accessible so everyone could join in. The rowing machines had a bar removed so wheelchair users could access them. This was fantastic for Connor who really enjoyed the opportunity to try rowing.
Every single student that participated had such a wonderful time during the event. Bridge College are talking to British Rowing and to GreaterSport about the possibility of future events and even getting some rowing machines to have in college.
Chloe, Sports Coach, said: “After A. won his race, he smiled so much for the rest of the day! We would like to say thank you to GreaterSport for helping us create a quiet area for lunch and just being so kind and helpful on the day. You all really made the experience one to remember.”
At the event, everyone really liked the fact that the rowing machines were linked to a screen which showed the rowers in action and tracked their progress. It was great that the students could watch their boats moving and see their position in the race.
Bridge College’s goal is to enhance health, fitness levels and engagement among our students and feel this event achieved this and more.
Jess from GreaterSport said: “Your continuation of participating in rowing as an activity post event is exactly what we aim to do with the School Games competitions.”
Bridge College student Humzah said: “It helped to improve muscles and was fun to watch the boats on the screen.” Bridge College student Jamal said: “We got to show good teamwork and I had a really good day.” Bridge College student Jodi W, said: “It was so much fun and something different.”
Dream job achieved with a helping hand from National Star
Josh Osborn has landed his dream job as a prep chef at The Ivy Montpellier Brasserie in Cheltenham, thanks to the support he received from National Star.
Josh, who has autism and mental health challenges, was struggling to find work. He wanted to get into the hospitality trade but needed support.
He signed up to one of National Star’s work programmes. He was assigned his personal job coach who worked with him to develop his interview techniques and boosted his CV with extensive work experience placements in the catering sector, helping him to gain relevant qualifications.
“Having Josh, my job coach, made me feel much more reassured and he has helped me in lots of ways, from going to interviews with me to taking me to my first shift at The Ivy at 7am,” said Josh, who lives in supported living in Gloucester. “He has even helped me learn to budget so that I have money to pay my bills.”
To enable Josh, aged 30, to manage in the busy kitchen environment, his job coach helped him break down work into specific tasks and created lists.
“When I get anxious, I start forgetting so breaking things into tasks and putting lists on my phone has helped. I don’t think I would have been able to handle the pressure without the support of my job coach. I love this job and don’t want to mess it up,” said Josh.
Matthew Aldred, Head Chef at The Ivy Montpellier Brasserie, commented: “Josh is an integral part of our team and kitchen brigade, and I am excited to see him continue to grow and develop in his role.”
“The Ivy has demonstrated that even in a busy commercial kitchen, with just small adjustments, they can attract a more diverse workforce,” said Simon Welch, National Star Principal.
“This is a wonderful success story for Josh who has grown in skills and confidence to be able to get paid employment and for The Ivy which has demonstrated an open-door policy and been rewarded with a committed and hardworking young man.”
First ever Smile Homes® independent living unit launched at Portland College
Portland College is excited to be working in partnership with ADS Independent Living Solutions (ADS) to launch their first Smile Homes® installation on campus.
Smile Homes® are constructed off-site and delivered as a fully completed personalised home. The building comes pre-fitted with a technology backbone to make the home clever enough to help look after the health and well-being of the person living in it, with the flexibility to support people with different needs in being as independent as they can.
The first unit installed at Portland College, co-funded by Innovate UK, the UK’s research and innovation agency, will be used as a living lab and to demonstrate its flexible technology infrastructure, which can support a range of systems for integrated building, environment and personal management.
Portland learners and citizens will have the opportunity to test this innovative new way of independent living and provide feedback on their experience to help shape future developments of the Smile Homes®.
Smile Homes® have the capacity to add personalised assistive technology driven by the needs of the person who will live in the home. It can be programmed to function as the user needs, creating a person-centred system to support routines and sensory needs with multi-sensors to constantly assess environment, physical and behavioural aspects whilst keeping data in the home for privacy and security.
David Adams, Chief Executive of ADS said, “Our intelligent Smile Homes® system is a transformational change in the delivery of personalised homes for independent living for people with different abilities and complex needs.
We are delighted to have completed this milestone with our first Smile Homes® installation at Portland College. We are looking forward to using this platform to drive innovation and delivery to enable people to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives in a home of their own, in a community of their choosing, which meets their needs and wishes.”
Almost exactly eleven years on from the Winterbourne View scandal, the pledge to offer people with learning disabilities and other needs genuine choice as to how and where they live has not been fulfilled. The failure to achieve this has been in part due to the lack of availability of the right facilities and support. Purpose built person-centred homes are few and far between, with the cost of converting existing accommodation too expensive, challenging and inconsistent with climate change objectives. People with needs continue to live and be cared for in inappropriate accommodation and, with the growing shortage of care staff in the UK, need has never been greater.
Smile Homes® also leads the way in sustainability as the buildings are highly insulated, targeting operation at net zero, have solar panels and a green roof and use no concrete – the prototype has screw piles. Furthermore, they are capable of being re-used or re-manufactured and moved effectively to a new site in line with the principles of a circular economy.
Dr Mark Dale, Principal and CEO of Portland College – the site of the first Smile Homes® unit, commented, “Smile Homes® is a fantastic example of exploiting technology to address major health, social and well-being issues, bringing innovation to the challenges of building fully accessible housing for people with disabilities and a range of medical conditions, using environmentally sustainable technology. We’re proud to be hosting the first Smile Homes® unit on campus and are looking forward to being involved in shaping the future of independent living.”
Students enjoy a taste of the world of work at The Deaf Academy
Students from The Deaf Academy have been enjoying a taste of the world of work thanks to the support of local businesses.
A range of placements were arranged for the young people, as well as career-related talks and a tour of Exeter College. Staff from Devon Air Ambulance visited the campus to deliver a talk to students, Careers South West helped with personalised support and there were opportunities to discover and develop personal skills.
The students also explored Marsh Barton Industrial Estate in Exeter, where they were welcomed to the Mercedes dealership, whilst back in Exmouth they enjoyed a tour of the RNLI lifeboat station.
The Deaf Academy Assistant Principal, Mark Stocks, said: “We’re very grateful for all the support we receive from businesses and organisations during our work experience week. This kind of experience is so important to our students and it’s great to see such an inclusive approach.”
Ocean Exmouth hosted 16-year-old student Mylo who was undertaking his first work experience placement. Mylo joined the customer services team, working closely with team member Adam. His role involved booking in customers for bowling and taking orders for food and drinks. He also dealt with customers via email, making and cancelling bookings, restocking snacks and drinks, and took on some cleaning duties.
Mylo said: “I really enjoyed my experience. The staff were really nice and it was great that some of them could use British Sign Language, which helped with the work that I was doing.”
Former student Sammi Bragg, who is now a veterinary assistant, returned to the Academy to tell students about her role, and she even got to demonstrate her skills on Caesar, a dog belonging to a member of staff.
Queen Alexandra College (QAC) ranked fourth in the ‘Top 100 Most Inclusive Workplaces’
Queen Alexandra College has been placed number 4 in the Top 100 Most Inclusive Workplaces Index 2022 at the National Centre for Diversity (NCfD) FREDIE Awards.
The accolade recognises the contribution and commitment made by organisations who have gone above and beyond to develop their policies and practices to promote fairness, respect, equality, diversity, inclusion and engagement (FREDIE) in the workplace.
Solat Chaudhry, NCfD Chief Executive said: “I send my warmest congratulations to Queen Alexandra College on successfully reaching number four in the Top 100 Most Inclusive Workplaces Index 2022. It’s been a challenging year and yet, it has not dented the excellent work that organisations and individuals do in promoting FREDIE best practice.
“I am particularly proud that we celebrate excellent work across all sectors as these organisations are the future of the workplace in the UK. We celebrate the exceptional work of people and organisations who have EDI running through their DNA. Let’s rejoice at this and build a better society.”
This latest achievement follows on from the College receiving the Investors in Diversity Award and the Leaders in Diversity Award from the NCfD, both of which are highly prized and prestigious quality marks.
The NCfD FREDIE Awards were held on Thursday 9 June 2022 at Aston Villa Football Club in Birmingham.
Taking the train with GWR at InFocus
Young adults with vision impairment learned all about GWR’s railway station in Exeter and found out how to use the Passenger Assist service as part of a collaboration last month. Students from InFocus College and young residents from InFocus Supported Living also enjoyed a trip on the mainline up to Taunton.
InFocus supports people with vision impairment and other disabilities, and it is important for them to learn how to travel safely on the railway network. This kind of opportunity is an important step towards a more independent adult life.
The event is the latest as part of a partnership with GWR, which last year saw railway staff based around Exeter take on the Three Peaks Challenge in aid of InFocus. The charity’s mobility and orientation team also gave customer service staff at the station some basic training in how to support people with vision impairment who are using the station and may be unfamiliar with its layout.
Learning about drugs and alcohol at Thornbeck College
As part of the Preparing for Adulthood framework learners are support to increase their skills and understanding relating to good health.
During Tutorials, learners have covered drugs and alcohol education. Learners were supported to access a range of tasks, activities, discussions and community visits including:
- The difference between legal (good drugs) and illegal drugs (bad drugs)
- The effects of drugs, alcohol and smoking
- Where drugs can be obtained (shop/pharmacy, prescription from a doctor or drug dealer)
- Peer pressure
- Answered questions to scenarios surrounding alcohol, drugs and smoking
- The effects socially acceptable drugs such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine have on the body, even though they are socially acceptable and widely used
- Visit to a local pharmacy
Supporting the learners to increase their knowledge and understanding in relation to drugs and alcohol has had a positive impact on their health and wellbeing.
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