Students from the Learning for Living and Work department at London South East Colleges have been taking advantage of an innovative project to help people with learning difficulties and complex needs into employment.

The project was launched over six years ago and has been growing in popularity and momentum ever since. From last year’s cohort, fourteen students served in a range of different career areas such as retail, office administration, catering, hospitality, care and support work with half still in post and the others going on to study higher level vocational courses.

Daniel, 20 and Rhiannon, 24 are both currently undertaking work experience programmes with catering firm Caterlink. They are given a number of duties such as the presentation and packaging of food and drinks, food hygiene, general kitchen skills and customer service. Daniel says: “I love this job and I have learnt so much since starting back in September. In fact, if I were to give it marks out of ten, I would give it one hundred.”

His supervisor, Elaine says: “Dan has been extremely useful to us. He’s punctual, willing to chip-in and work hard, he’s adaptable and very pleasant to go with it. I don’t know where we’d be without him.”

Harry, 20, from Orpington, is doing his internship with Toby Carveries in Bromley. He says: “I really like the atmosphere of the carvery and I’m very comfortable with the work. I love serving our guests and they give me lots of praise. I also feel like I fit in with the team; they definitely appreciate me being on-board. If I were a stick of rock, I would have the words ‘working in the carvery’ running through me from head to toe.”

Jayce and Hannah are both working hard at Waitrose in Beckenham. Hannah is still on her internship programme while Jayce has now been taken on as a full-time employee.

Jayce says: “This job has made me realise that I love working with people. Waitrose is a great company to work for and they have given me lots of support and encouragement. I never thought I’d have the confidence to work the tills and handle money but now it’s one of my regular duties. It’s great that my boss has so much faith and trust in my abilities. I’m so thankful to the College for finding me this opportunity.”

Hannah says: “I have learnt to work quickly and confidently and I think I’ve actually improved my language and communications skills during my time here. I still attend College one-day a week and get lots of tuition in English, maths and IT. I get useful coaching from both my tutors and work colleagues.”

Customer Service Manager, Sharon says: “Jayce and Hannah are brilliant. Both have gone from shy and quiet to confident and chatty. A large supermarket such as this is at the very heart of the community and aims to provide its customers with high quality products and service. Jayce and Hannah understand that and fit easily into what is expected of them. They do it with style and lots of enthusiasm. Two golden rays of sunshine.”

Tutor, Giles Delamare is the Employment Preparation and Supported Internship Leader at Bromley Campus. He says: “Each year I continue to be impressed by the hard work and dedication our students show during their internships. They value the opportunities they are given and generally succeed with them. These opportunities really do empower people with learning difficulties and enable them to become more independent and employable. Our partnerships with employers such as Waitrose, Toby Carveries, Gap, the British Heart Foundation, Co-op, the NHS and many more who provide their support to the project is invaluable.”

Related link: Special Educational Needs (SEND)


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