A new form of work experience for young people with learning difficulties and disabilities has begun for Sheffield College students.
Seven young people are on six-month placements at John Lewis in the city centre. The store is the first branch nationally to run a programme of this type.
Heather Smith, Principal, The Sheffield College, said: “Our programmes help students with learning difficulties and disabilities 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 each week at John Lewis, gaining experience across a range of departments, with two afternoons in college.
Job coach Jan Thompson provides mentoring and said of the Sheffield College students. “The difference in their confidence is incredible. 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.”
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. The students have been exceptional and shown themselves to be highly professional with an excellent attitude. Now we have been approached by other branches wanting advice on how they can replicate this scheme.”
Twenty-one-year-old student Luke Askham has served in the cafe. He said: “I really want to work in a shop and am hoping work experience will help me. I’ve developed my social skills and feel a lot more confident.”
More employers are expected to offer placements. All the young people have completed a foundation learning programme. Visit www.sheffcol.ac.uk or call 0114 2602600 for information.