Source: Leeds Beckett University
Leeds Beckett University is welcoming people with learning disabilities across its campuses, as they take part in a variety of roles within the University’s services as part of Mencap’s Learning Disability Work Experience Week 2016.
Building on last year’s initiative, the number of placements for people with learning disabilities supported by Mencap has increased this year to 11. The placements are running throughout the week commencing Monday 7 November.
The Mencap customers are working in collaboration with a range of services at Leeds Beckett, including: the University’s bike hub; the maintenance of its Headingley Campus grounds; the Campus and Residential Services administration; the food services at both campuses; the cleaning services; and the University’s mail room. This year, eight participants will continue their placements beyond the week, until Friday 2 December.
Participant, Sophie Fowler (pictured above), commented: “I am working as an assistant in the Headingley Campus shop: working on the till, stacking shelves and talking to customers. Interacting with the customers is my favourite part of the job. I have dyslexia so I struggle with maths and English at work – it affects me working out change mostly. Here, the till shows me what change I need to give and I can count it out: if I had to work it out in my head it would take me ages.
“In the past, I have had work experience but that was with animal care so this is quite a change of experience and I’m really enjoying trying something new. I would recommend the work experience week to other people because, if you apply for a job, they want you to have experience of that job, so I would tell people to get involved.”
Peter Griffiths, Grounds Manager at Leeds Beckett (pictured top with Carl and Dharminder), said: “My team were happy to give Carl Hurley and Dharminder Singh the opportunity to experience some of the work we do. They were both involved with bulb planting on the first day and went on to help with clearing the never-ending sea of falling leaves. We feel it’s important for placements to experience the feeling of being part of a team and to get used to the routine of work and how and why we do things. Both Carl and Dharminder settled in well and clearly enjoyed getting involved with the tasks they were working on and meeting the people they were working with.
“It’s easy to become complacent about our working lives and to forget how important an opportunity to experience everyday structure and routine can be to people with learning difficulties. Our advice to others is give it a go!”
The Learning Disability Work Experience Week campaign was established by charity Mencap and Inclusive Employers and, this year, runs from Monday 7 to Sunday 13 November. The aim of the campaign is to give employers first-hand experience of the benefits of working alongside a person with a learning disability, showing them the benefits this could bring to their organisation.
Deborah Blackburn and Louise Hartley, Campus Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University’s CommUNIty initiative, which promotes the development of sustainable partnerships between voluntary/community organisations and the University, is supporting the Mencap partnership with Leeds Beckett, developing it beyond Learning Disability Work Experience Week, with the aim of providing regular work placements for people with learning disabilities through the year.
Susan Coan, CommUNIty lead for Placements and Widening Participation at Leeds Beckett, commented: “Last year we had two placements during Learning Disability Work Experience Week and they went really well. This year we’re absolutely delighted to be offering 11 placements in a wide range of teams across both campuses of Leeds Beckett. Our staff have been really keen to get involved and everyone sees the value of this first key step to getting employment. We’re really looking forward to the placements and working with Mencap to see what can happen next. The Leeds Beckett motto is ‘Opening Minds, Opening Doors’ and this is exactly what Mencap’s Learning Disability Work Experience Week is all about.”
Mark Capper, Head of Employment at Mencap, added: “With less than six per cent of people with a learning disability known to local authorities in paid work, Learning Disability Work Experience Week is a crucial way to get employers on board and become more inclusive in their recruitment. Leeds Beckett have been a consistent supporter of the scheme and helped raise awareness of the benefits organisations experience when taking on employees with a learning disability. There are so many barriers people with a learning disability need to overcome when finding work; but companies we work with consistently report many benefits and so we hope others will continue to think differently about who they employ.”
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