Training at ITAD
Here at ITAD things are expanding and changing. For the last 8 months we have offered a small training scheme in conjunction with WISE (Welsh Initiative for Supported Employment) in Swansea. The scheme is aimed at people with learning difficulties from the local area and gives the chance to learn many new skills in a real workplace. We have so far had 26 people come to us with all levels of learning issues, from ADHD to Autism to Cerebral Palsy. Most of our placements are people who have been out of work for a long time and some of the younger people have never had experience in a work environment. The target for our scheme is to offer two levels of learning.
- For the trainees to learn about the workings of a PC
- For the trainees to experience a working environment and all the 'rules' that come with it!
This scheme was the brainchild of our CEO. One of his main aims for this company is to give people a chance of employment that may otherwise be ignored due to physical or mental health issues. This makes the staff at ITAD an eclectic bunch.12 of 16 members of staff would be recognised as having a disability. As an extension of this philosophy, our CEO decided to set up this training scheme. And this is where I came in. Until 14 months ago my personal experience with ME had me housebound for 7 years - now I work here full time. I was taken on then, for what I am, a fully qualified teacher who no longer wanted to work in schools.
The training starts in the 'training room'. This is a safe place, for the trainees, where they get a lot of support from me and a support worker from the charity we work with. The aim is that the trainee begins his/her sessions in the safety of the training room. During this time, if we think it will be beneficial for the individual, they will also get to work for in our warehouse, but by coming back to the training room they still have a safety net. During their time in the training room they also spend their breaks and lunchtimes with the rest of the staff, so they get to know people in a more relaxed atmosphere, building their confidence with the larger team, which we have found helps them to then progress to the warehouse. The final aim is for the person to then leave the training room fully and spend their remaining sessions working in the warehouse, working as a fully fledged member of our team.
Due to the nature of the learning difficulties of the trainees and the length of time that many of them have been away from work, learning the norms of the workplace is often more harrowing than learning how a PC works - at least the insides of a PC makes more sense!
There are many beautiful things about this course - probably far too many to list here - but one of the main ones is the flexibility we offer. Every placement is different; we listen to the needs of the individual and work with them to reach their goals. For a whole host of reasons, some of the placements will not work in the warehouse but, most will. The trainees that stay in the training room are given advanced tasks that will push them further, just as moving to the warehouse environment provides tasks that stretch the trainees and aims to make them feel good about themselves.
I'd like to just tell you about one of our placements who left us recently. He joined us about 14 weeks ago after having been to many work placements in other companies and each one being finished early as he was deemed “unsuitable”. He has Aspergers syndrome and when he first came in to the training room he could barely look you in the eye, he was so shy and unsure. He did really well in the training room and quite quickly learnt all he could in that particular environment, so we tried him for short portions of time in the warehouse and again he did really well. When we were as sure as possible that it was best for him, we told him he had 'graduated' from the training room and would be spending his remaining sessions in the warehouse. He was SO happy and proud of himself - rightly so. He has spent roughly 7 weeks working in the warehouse and has excelled at every role we have put him in and has constantly asked "What can I learn now?” The highlight of this story came yesterday, however, as he was about to leave I shook his hand and told him to keep in touch. He looked at me, walked forward and flung his arms around me. I couldn't believe it. This was the same person who 14 weeks previously couldn't look you in the eye! I was so overawed I teared up! I was so proud of him, yet at the same time I was also desperately sad for him. He is one of the hardest working, most conscientious people I have ever had the pleasure to work with and we will miss him. In an ideal world we would love to able to offer him employment. As it is we are a small business and simply cannot afford to take on another member of staff at the minute.
Ideally this person would be able to leave here with an excellent recommendation under his belt and go elsewhere and get employment. Sadly this will probably not happen. Why? Because many companies, for whatever reason see disabilities and difficulties and not the person underneath and the value that person could bring to their company.
In spite of this, our scheme has been a real success and we have seen many people become more happy/ confident/ empowered/ capable/ strong/ open, etc, etc, including myself and ITAD Training. Due to this we are hoping to extend the training we offer by first becoming an Agored Cymru/OCN recognised centre and by working with more organisations like WISE to reach more people. The key factor that we are working on and will be one of the roles of our Training Development Manager, is to create relationships with local companies of all sizes to try and ensure that when someone has spent time with us we can call on others to, hopefully, provide employment. Lofty ambition? Heck yes, but you don't change the world by thinking small!