A FINANCIAL services company is calling on the North East business community to open its doors to young students with disabilities and learning difficulties, after being inspired by their latest recruit. 

Newcastle-based Lycetts has teamed up with County Durham-based charity Learning for Life in a bid to encourage more businesses to offer work placements to students with diverse and complex needs and disabilities.   

Learning for Life is one of Lycetts chosen charities and, after discovering the difficulty faced by the specialist education provider in securing work experience for its students, the firm committed to a one-year placement for student Christopher Adams at its Newcastle headquarters. 

Christopher pictured at his Lycetts placement in Newcastle

Spurred on by the success of the placement, Charles Renwick, head of management services at Lycetts, is organising an informative event for businesses, where they can learn about the benefits of such placements and how they can help enrich the lives of Christopher’s Learning for Life peers. 

“Learning for Life is a small but brilliant charity that aims to make the lives of some of society’s most vulnerable young people more meaningful and fulfilled,” said Charles. 

“We wanted to show our support beyond monetary contributions so we were more than happy to welcome Christopher onboard, for a half day every week.   

“Christopher thrived in his general administration role, so much so that he has just embarked on a second year’s placement with us – and secured another year’s funding to continue his studies. 

“It has been an overwhelmingly positive and mutually rewarding experience, helping Christopher gain more independence and cultivating a more diverse, inclusive and empathetic environment in the office. 

“We have first-hand experience of just how beneficial these placements are, which is why we are encouraging companies in the region to consider engaging with Learning for Life on potential partnerships. 

“Through the Learning for Life placement event, we hope to give businesses who want to make a real difference the chance to listen, learn and discover how they can help overcome the barriers that young disabled people so often face when trying to access the world of employment.”

Christopher, a Learning for Life student, has thrived in his Lycetts placement 

Marie Matthewson, principal of Learning for Life, said that the charity embarked on a number of initiatives to help their young learners lead more independent lives and introduce them to the world of work. 

This includes opening a café in Consett, where students gain work experience in a café environment, launching a market stall for job opportunities, and carrying out voluntary work in the community. 

Despite the positive strides made by the charity’s own initiatives, Marie said that opportunities have been very limited in the wider business community.

“We understand there may be reservations about resources and lack of training, but we work closely with companies and provide support, through chaperone teachers and staff coaching, to ensure everyone is fully informed and equipped,” said Marie. 

“For the students, work experience helps with self-esteem, motivation, communication – their whole demeanour.  Christopher has achieved so much, including learning how to travel independently, and his peers see this and want to follow in his footsteps.  

“Work experience helps our students to acquire invaluable skills they would not ordinarily have the opportunity to develop and we would welcome any business who is interested in helping these eager and determined young people fulfil their potential to come along to the event or get in touch.”         

In addition to Lycetts offering Christopher a placement, his colleagues at Lycetts have supported his college through various fundraising initiatives, including a sponsored climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, and clubbed together to buy Christopher a suit, shirts and shoes to wear to work. 

Any businesses interested in attending Lycetts’ Learning for Life work placement event should contact Charles Renwick on charles.renwick@lycetts.co.uk or 0191 2321 151.    

To find out more about Learning for Life and the work that they do, visit learninglife.org.uk or contact Marie on  m.matthewson@learninglife.org.uk or 07743189302.