Young people with autism and other learning needs are giving back to their community as businesses help them to play their part.
Specialist education provider Harrison College, in Doncaster, has built relationships with businesses that are offering opportunities for its students who are aged 16-25.
It means the young people can develop skills they are learning in college and are able to draw on to help with community projects.
The college opened in August 2019 and is the only provider of education for post-16s with special needs where the emphasis is on internships, employment and work skills to ensure they have a bright future.
One of the business links the college has built is with Morrison’s which provides a weekly box of healthy snacks.
College Principal Gemma Peebles said: “Morrison’s has been very supportive. Their weekly donation of a box for our breakfast club means we can ensure that those students who might be disadvantaged are able to eat healthily from the choices of soup, snacks and fruit as part of our Eat Well Think Better programme.”
Other businesses have offered the young people internships including Wheatley Hill Golf Club, where student Ethan who was taken on as an intern may be offered an apprenticeship. He has been helping with groundwork on the greens and bunkers.
Head greenkeeper Martin Hayward said: “Ethan was down to finish with us but we’ve extended his internship to January and, if the club can fund it, we’d like to take him on as an apprentice.
“He’s a really nice lad and always comes with a smile on his face, and seems to enjoy it. He has to work with someone else all the time but because we’re a team of six it helps with some of the workload and gives Ethan a good insight. We wanted to give him a chance and we include him as part of the team. I’d encourage other businesses to give the students a chance.”
At First Class Design, student Reece has been creating web pages, email templates and supporting other members of the team.
Mark Shipway, of First Class Design, said: “Reece is someone who we know will fit within our company and add to our digital capabilities. Over time, he will learn new skills and get to understand how marketing and design is created and how to communicate to end users. He will need to work from a clients’ brief where information is to be translated into effective digital products.
“He will be expected to get more involved in the client side of his role, being present at conceptual meetings and supplying ongoing support to clients and the team.”
Mark added: “We’ve enjoyed working with Harrison College who have kept us informed about Reece’s progress. Over his internship with us he has definitely benefited from his time at Harrison College and week on week we have seen improvements in his attitude and confidence.”
Petals Florist, the RSPCA, Holiday Inn and an estate agent and a mortgage adviser have also taken students on work experience.
Mrs Peebles added: “They have seen what a wonderful asset our young people can be and what they have to give. We are trying to change perceptions around what they can offer, which these partners recognise.”
The students are also taken off-site to develop their skills, for example to Lakeside shopping centre where they have been analysing marketing, doing data collection and market research, and developing their interaction and communication skills.
Three students have also spent a week helping build Nexus Multi Academy Trust Bridge Café for students with special needs.
“They helped with the renovation and learned basic joinery to build benches and decking, which was really good experience for them and meant they contributed to the project,” said Mrs Peebles.
“We are seeking to expand our internship programme. It’s very rewarding both for the organisations who work with us and the students and we’d welcome any businesses to get in touch to discuss how we can help each other.”
For more information, visit harrisoncollege.co.uk or tel: 01302 540495.