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A leading retail company is backing a new Sheffield College initiative to help young people with learning difficulties and disabilities get in to the world of work.
John Lewis Sheffield is the first employer to sign up to the College’s newly launched supported internship scheme, which provides students with the opportunity to gain work placements and develop employability skills.
Seven young people have started a six-month placement at John Lewis Sheffield on Barkers Pool in Sheffield city centre. The store is the first John Lewis branch nationally to run a programme of this type for young people with learning difficulties and disabilities.
Heather Smith, Principal, The Sheffield College, said: “The College has a strong record of supporting students with learning difficulties and disabilities who can face barriers to employment.”
She added: “Our programmes help them to grow in self confidence and gain the life and work skills to succeed. We are delighted that such a highly reputable company is supporting our scheme to enhance students’ prospects.”
The young people, aged 16 to 23, spend 20 hours a week at John Lewis gaining experience across a range of departments including beauty, electrical, fashion and in the café, in addition to studying for two afternoons at the College. The placements at John Lewis began in February and run until August 19th.
Jan Thompson, is a Sheffield College Job Coach, and provides mentoring to the students. She said: “The students are developing valuable employability skills in relation to customer service, time keeping and team working. They are also developing organisational and communication skills."
She continued: “The difference in their confidence is incredible. They are really enjoying the opportunity and just seem to shine. One student, previously frightened of going into a lift, has overcome that fear. Others who were very shy are developing great social skills. I can’t praise John Lewis enough. It’s a wonderful opportunity that they have provided.”
Fiona Edmondson, Operational Support Co-ordinator, John Lewis Sheffield, said: “The College approached us to ask if we would support this scheme. We thought it was a fantastic idea and an opportunity for us to contribute to the wellbeing of our local community."
She added: "The students have been exceptional and shown themselves to be highly professional with an excellent attitude. They have been extremely well received by our customers. Now we have been approached by other branches wanting advice on how they can replicate this scheme.”
One of the students benefiting from the scheme is 21-year-old Luke Askham, who has served customers in the café and gained experience in other departments. Luke said: “I really want to work in a shop and I am hoping that getting some work experience will help me. I really enjoy meeting all the customers. I’ve developed my social skills and I feel a lot more confident.”
More regional employers are expected to sign up to the scheme, and offer work experience placements. All of the young people have completed the College’s foundation learning programme which helps students, who have few or no academic qualifications, to improve their maths and English as well as work and life skills, with the opportunity to progress and move up to the next level course.
The College has a strong reputation for supporting young people with special educational needs and disabilities. For more information about full-time courses starting this September, click here or call 0114 2602600.