People with autism, learning disabilities or additional needs are finding paid work thanks to a specialist team at Kirklees Council.
REAL Employment is a dedicated team that helps people prepare for the world of work, from brushing up on vital skills to preparing for interviews.
Over the last year it’s found work for dozens of people such as Marsha Simpson who now has her dream job working for Huddersfield Town Football Club.
Marsha has a mild learning disability and a speech impediment but after working with a REAL Employment job coach she got two part-time cleaning roles and with the money she earned was able to move into her own place.
That turned out to be only the start for a cleaner was needed at Huddersfield Town’s training ground and with Marsha’s previous experience it was the perfect fit.
With the support of her REAL Employment training coach she prepared for her interview and walked in feeling confident. Then, working with her job coach, the HTFC team at Canalside made reasonable adjustments to ensure that Marsha felt comfortable. She was hired after an exemplary interview.
REAL Employment manager Victoria Butterworth said: “Marsha’s case is a great example of what can be achieved if people show understanding and flexibility. Marsha has a job she thoroughly enjoys and Huddersfield Town has a committed, dedicated worker who takes a great pride in what she does.”
Another employer in Huddersfield that thinks the scheme works well is Nando’s as its manager, Callum Stephens, is autistic. He’s provided work experience for people with autism and learning disabilities, then looked to provide bespoke roles for them and is now liaising with Nando’s headquarters about what more the restaurant chain can do nationally.
Callum said: “Working together with REAL Employment, a 12-week, paid, work trial for job seekers was established. With dedicated support and encouragement, the team at Nando’s could see just how hard working, reliable, honest and capable our job seekers are.
“Employing someone with a learning disability or autism truly is a massive advantage to any business. Not only in terms of their work ethic, but how it highlights the need for additional training and education for the whole team.”
REAL Employment has just received a boost in Government funding and, in return, needs to have 120 people on its books by May 2024 with 30% of them in work by the following May.
“It’s certainly achievable,” said Vicky. “At the moment we are finding paid work for up to 60 people a year through the service, jobs which are boosting their self-esteem and changing their lives.”
The jobs are in IT, administration, retail, care work, gardening, cleaning and animal care, to name just a few.
The service, run by Kirklees Council, has been operating more than 20 years and people can refer themselves to it. It works with the council’s Employment and Skills team which links in with the area’s businesses to help find work experience and paid employment.
Everyone joining REAL Employment has a vocational profile drawn up so potential employers know their qualifications, experience and skills set along with any further training they may need. Although they can only help people aged 18 or over, those aged 17 can go to the office to see how it all works and get the ball rolling.
The main office is on Market Street in Huddersfield town centre with another at Dewsbury Town Hall.
The support doesn’t end when the person gets a job as REAL Employment staff will do work support and task analysis to help both the person and their employer get the most out of the experience. People with autism may process information differently so it could be they need to be given instructions in a specific way or information broken down and simplified.
REAL Employment also has regular meetings with the employers to ensure everything is going all right.
Vicky said: “The sense of self-worth that people achieve once they are in paid work is incredible. They meet new people, socialise and become less reliant on benefits.
“We had one young man straight out of university who was very shy, always had his head down and avoided eye contact. He’s now a porter in a local hospital, a real person-centred role.
“Another university-educated jobseeker has web design skills but could never hold a job down for longer than six months due to his autism. Our job coach worked closely with him and they decided to divulge his autism to employers and he’s now just passed his six month probation in a new role. It’s really boosted his confidence and determination to eventually find his ideal job.”
For more information about REAL Employment go to www.kirklees.gov.uk/real
Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.