8 years ago, Mr Quinn asked me if I would like to go to Cincinnati in Ohio, America to look at ‘Project Search’, a scheme that places young people with additional needs with employers in the work place for the majority of their college week, teaching them work skills and preparing them for working life. I remember thinking, ‘WOW, that sounds incredible!’ and I of course accepted and a few months later, I along with my colleague Sarah Lockwood and governor Phil Palmer flew out to America for a week to see what Project Search was all about.
When I got to Cincinnati I visited three Project Search sites – the local children’s hospital, a major American bank and the city’s university. I will never forget that trip because everywhere we went, young adults with additional needs and disabilities were working in public facing roles and employing workers with disabilities and learning difficulties was very much ‘the norm’ around the city. My mind was well and truly blown and I was inspired… little did I know then what an impact that trip would have on my career and on the young people at New Bridge.
At that time, we hadn’t had one student from New Bridge move into paid work, we hadn’t even explored work experience, let alone full time internships and we came back and put a plan into place. This Tuesday I spent the day with visitors from Kent who are very much in the position that we were in 8 years ago. I spent the day showing them around The Atrium, Bridging the Gap at the Royal Oldham Hospital, our pre internship at the RSPCA and various work placements across the town including The Premier Inn.
Their reaction to what we do here at New Bridge was incredible. They were as inspired by us as I was by Project Search 8 years ago and I think I finally had that ‘Eureka! moment’ where I realised that we had cracked it… that ethos and culture in Cincinnati is very much replicated now in Oldham – our young people are very much engaged within their communities and are making a valued contribution to our town.
This week we have had 31 young people in full time work placements across Oldham and Greater Manchester, in roles that include portering at the hospital, serving at the local café, cleaning rooms at The Premier Inn, assisting customers at the local library, serving students in the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) café and many many more. In addition to this, we have had 29 young people from across the Group out on half day work placements within businesses across Oldham. So that is 60 YOUNG PEOPLE out at work this week! 60!!! This isn’t counting the 20+ young people who have already left us and moved into paid employment or independent volunteering!
The best thing is that at New Bridge, we don’t stand still and think, ‘this is it, let’s sit back and enjoy what we have achieved’ – we look for new ideas, new opportunities, new placements and new jobs! Our job coaches push our students every single day on their placements to ensure that they are fully prepared for paid employment. I thought it was really important to bring this to your attention this week, sometimes we take for granted what we have and we can complain about the smallest of things in our day to day working lives. I just want to say thank you to every employer, job coach, student, parent and staff member who has helped us over the past 8 years. Together we have changed the culture and ethos of Oldham and for that you should all be very proud!
The start of my inspiring week was spent with a visit to MMU on Monday morning, who this year are hosting three of our Future Finders students. As always it was a pleasure to see the students on placement – more amazing feedback from staff too! This leads me nicely to this week’s ‘Worker of the Week’ who is Faisal. Faisal is working with the MMU portering team and is doing an amazing job! He has also recently completed his travel training and is now travelling all the way to Manchester every day independently – well done, Faisal!
Here you can see Faisal hard at work on placement at MMU..
We had some lovely feedback about Faisal today from one of his team,
It’s really great to have him, he knows what he’s doing, he really helps and it lessens the work load for the team.
They also report that Faisal is ‘coming out of his shell more and more’ – it’s great to hear how he’s now a valued member of the team, well done Faisal!
Mubaarak has also started a new job today, stock rotation – he said he ‘feels ok but I just need to learn where everything is kept.’ We’re sure he’ll do just as good a job as he did working front of house in the John Dalton Refectory..
Kayleigh has been very busy in the library at MMU! She has made an instagram video this week advertising some of the services on offer in the library, she has been working in the book repair room, book sorter, in the office and she has continued to work on the Art project ‘What it means to me’..
On Tuesday evening after our visitors from Kent had set off home with so much to think about, we held an Employability Pathways open evening at Medtia. It was lovely to see so many families attending. We have followed that with further assessment sessions for our employability pathways and our initial student visits to see Bridging the Gap in action at the Royal Oldham Hospital.
We will be bringing you exciting news of Digit4ll’s Dragons’ Den experience in the coming days – we don’t want to spoil the surprise but we’re very proud of how well they coped, watch this space!!
All in all, a very busy but productive week! Don’t forget that all our sites are closed this Friday for our staff training day and our young people will be breaking up for half term on Thursday 8th February.
Have a wonderful weekend…I shall be spending it with friends to celebrate my birthday. More reminiscing no doubt!
Director of Employment & Co Head of Site at Medtia Square
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