William Risdale has a severe bi-lateral sensori-neural hearing loss and joined us as a school student in 2008. He was due to move to Exeter Deaf Academy’s college in 2013, however suffered a significant period of ill health and major surgery, but after his recovery he soon returned to full time further education. He came to college with the intent to work in catering like other members of his family. However, as William progressed through his first year of further education he started to show interest in other vocational areas, one of which was animal care. William had experience with animal care at home and so already knew the basics about what it involved.

At this time William was still interested in catering so he explored both vocations through extended work experience placements in both a café and an animal care sanctuary. He showed much talent in both, but his true passion was clear when he negotiated to become a volunteer at the animal sanctuary. However, we wanted to make sure William was sure on his decision for his future career and progression within further education so he went on to undertake trials on both a catering and an animal care course.

William was clear on what he wanted and chose to go on to a Level 1 course in Animal Care at the one of our partner organisations, Bicton College where he was supported by our specialist staff including Communication Support Workers. During that year William returned to the animal sanctuary whenever he could fit work experience into his timetable. To broaden his animal care experience William also visited other work experience partners including a rare breeds farm where he subsequently became a volunteer working in the holidays whenever he could.

Having successfully completed his Level 1 course William wanted to continue to achieve nationally recognised vocational qualifications in Animal Care but wanted to spend more time learning in the real workplace rather than at college. We were able to negotiate for William to do a work based certificate at The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth where he did on the job training in donkey care while working towards the Level 2 work based certificate in Animal Care.

As part of his work based certificate William worked three days per week at The Donkey Sanctuary during term time and then as a volunteer every holiday. He became a valued, effective and skilled member of the donkey care team and a highly valued member of The Donkey Sanctuary workforce.

William left us in the summer of 2016 and The Donkey Sanctuary were so pleased by William and his work that he is now a paid employee with the opportunity for further training.