Doncaster employment service for those with learning diffciulties enhanced with mock work zones

A specialist employability service in Doncaster has created a range of simulated work environments to give people hoping to get into work hands-on, practical job experience.
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Aspire to Be, which is managed by Doncaster Deaf Trust and helps adults with learning disabilities and other difficulties gain life skills and employment, has enhanced its unique provision with the addition of four new ‘mock’ areas - a warehouse, retail shop, café and soon-to-be completed catering section.

The service, which already has a ‘working’ hotel room on its site on Leger Way, has joined forces with a range of businesses to make the areas as real-to-life as possible and to ensure they include all the equipment an employee working in these sectors would need.

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The five work environments are to be used by staff with service users to breakdown certain tasks within a job role and explain in detail the different elements involved. The rooms have been inspected by businesses in each relevant sector to make sure they are as realistic as possible and have had items donated such as racking for the warehouse and a working till in the retail area.

Service user, Robert Sharpe with Barbara Malone who is a work coach at Aspire to Be in the new retail shop areaService user, Robert Sharpe with Barbara Malone who is a work coach at Aspire to Be in the new retail shop area
Service user, Robert Sharpe with Barbara Malone who is a work coach at Aspire to Be in the new retail shop area

Tina Rafferty, Aspire to Be programme manager, said: “A vital part of what we do here at Aspire to Be is to enable our service users to learn about the world of work and ensure that anyone who's capable of working can.

“We are very unique because our service is not attached to a specific qualification so we want to capture those who may not be able to cope in an educational setting but are still able and willing to work. They have something to offer but just need to be taught skills and gain experience in a different, more tailored way to suit their needs and these new areas are really going to help us support them more effectively. Their aim is to give people real life work experience and gain knowledge of working practices and expectations.

“Linking up with businesses in the area such as Premier Inn has allowed us to develop our mock hotel room which has gone really well and now we have been able to expand by opening up a retail shop, warehouse and café. We are still working on our bespoke catering area which will have a sink and food preparation bench, so when that is complete, we will have a total of five areas for those who use our service to access opening up more job opportunities to them.

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“This gives our service users real-life practical experience of the various roles within these sectors which not only helps develop their skills and build on what they learn with us but also allows them to grow their confidence and self esteem.

Brian Green, who works at Aspire to Be, alongside service user, Tim Hinsley in the new warehouse areaBrian Green, who works at Aspire to Be, alongside service user, Tim Hinsley in the new warehouse area
Brian Green, who works at Aspire to Be, alongside service user, Tim Hinsley in the new warehouse area

“We are so thankful to the businesses who have supported us with this as we know how much it will help our service users and increase their chances of employment. For many years they may have been passed over or ignored due to their disability as some organisations only see employing them as a challenge but this is such a shame because we know how adaptable, capable and valuable these individuals can be within a workplace environment, they just need to be given an opportunity.”