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Learning disabilities work experience week 2015

Leeds Beckett University teamed up with Mencap again this year to provide two work placements to customers of the charity as part of Learning Disabilities Work Experience Week 2015. Susan Coan, who leads on placements and student engagement as part of the CommUNIty initiative at Leeds Beckett, helped to organise the placements which were once again a great success.

From the 9th to 15th November 2015 Leeds Beckett teamed up with Mencap for the second year running for Learning Disabilities Work Experience Week (LDWEW). This year we offered placements to two people, Daniel Ratcliffe in the Faculty of Arts, Environment and Technology (AET), and Lee Scarlett with the Sport and Active Lifestyles team.

As I was fairly new to my role in the CommUNIty team when we started organising the placements, I took a little time to read up about LDWEW and was shocked by Mencap’s figures on the number of people with a learning disability who work. For those who aren’t familiar with the statistics, only 7% of people with a learning disability are in paid employment. As a public institution with policies on inclusion and an understanding of the benefits of a diverse workforce, we are really pleased to have been a part of this initiative.

We approached various departments around the university and got really positive responses from the Carnegie Faculty and the faculty of AET. As a result, we were put in touch with Sally Nickson (Head of Sport, Sport and Active Lifestyles) and Fiona Scarth (PA to the Dean and COO of the faculty). I was really impressed by their enthusiasm about the scheme and their willingness to go the extra mile to make sure the placements were a success. The AET reception team met Daniel before his placement and their warm welcome really helped to put his mind at ease. Lee wasn’t able to come in before his placement, but the team made sure he felt comfortable straight away by providing him with the Leeds Beckett sports gear and a jam-packed timetable of activities so he could really get a feel for the job.

We were cautiously optimistic about the placements, knowing that the two teams involved were 100% on board and Elliot at Mencap had chosen people who he thought would be the best fit for the two roles.  In reality everything went much better than I could have expected. Lee and Daniel were both praised for their enthusiasm and positivity. Lee was described as an asset to the team and as a result he will be continuing to volunteer in Sport and Active Lifestyles for two days a week. Daniel’s “fantastic can do attitude” has guaranteed him an excellent reference for whatever he chooses to do next.

Moving forward, we will be spreading the word around the University and sharing the positive experiences of our colleagues. There are definitely significant benefits for both parties; Lee and Daniel have gained valuable experience, confidence and glowing references; and the Leeds Beckett teams had the benefit of two very keen employees who brought a lot of additional energy and ability. Both departments/faculties have already expressed an interest in supporting LDWEW next year and we’re confident that their endorsement will lead to other teams joining in too. Ideally, the CommUNIty team would like to see placements like this happening across the University and throughout the year, not just during a specific week to raise awareness. For the time being though, we’ll enjoy the success of this year’s work experience week and say a huge thank you to everyone who has helped make it go so well!

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