What is your role at Ambitious College? How long have your worked there?
I work at Ambitious College as a Vocational Specialist. I have been working at the College since October 2014. My main responsibilities involve sourcing work experience placements for our students and building relationships with employers that may be able to offer work placements. Another key part of my role is helping develop the students vocational skills with college based activities.
What interested you in the role?
I’ve always been passionate about supporting people with disabilities to find and maintain employment. Working at Ambitious College has allowed me to work with young people with very complex needs and provide them with an opportunity to participate in a work placement that in other educational settings or service providers may not have been available to them.
What work experience placements are the students currently accessing?
We currently have a range of work placements available to our students – retail at Saracens Rugby Club, administration at Barnet and Southgate College library, education assistant at the RAF Museum and facilities assistant at Treehouse School. Having a range of opportunities available to students enables them to ‘try out’ different types of employment and learn new skills.
Why is work experience so important?
Access to work experience opportunities is a rite of passage for all young people transitioning from school to college and beyond and our young students are no different. Work experience provides our learners an opportunity to learn new skills, access environments they have never encountered before and feel as though they are making a positive contribution to the community. We have been working with some young people who have shown measured improvements over the course of a four week work placement, not only in learning the skills of the job but also a reduction in requests for breaks and challenging behaviour.
Could work experience lead to learners getting paid employment?
This has been the case for one of our learners. He started work experience delivering leaflets and is now in paid employment two mornings per week. He has been employed for over a year. Although some of our placements may not lead directly to paid employment, students learn new skills and become familiar with what is expected of them whilst at a place of employment – all valuable transferable skills that will encourage other employers to employ our learners.
What are the College’s future plans for work experience?
Our ultimate goal is to be able to provide all of our students the opportunity, if appropriate, to take part in work experience, whether it be internal work experience at college or with an external employer. Some students will also aspire to gain paid employment.
What's your involvement with the RAF Museum?
Ambitious College has also been working with the RAF Museum since December 2014. In addition to offering work placements for our students, the RAF Museum are constantly striving to ensure their museum is accessible to people with autism and their families and recently gained an Autism Access Award. Later this year, I will be co-presenting with the RAF Museum at the Museums Association conference in Birmingham. We will be discussing how to make museums more accessible for people with autism spectrum conditions with the hope that more museums across the country will make changes in order for more people to be access their collections.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Being able to provide new opportunities and experiences to our students and watching them grow. Mostly recently I was able to witness the progress of a student completing work experience at Saracens. Over the course of four weeks he was able to reduce his anxiety and settle into the role and eventually he was able to complete the job independently. And he seemed so happy to be at work!
What’s special about Ambitious College?
Ambitious College is exactly that, ambitious. We have been able to provide experiences to our young students that no one thought possible and as a result seen such positive changes in some of our students.
Describe your role in three words
Challenging, surprising, gratifying.