Joining the working world can be a daunting experience for any young person – but it is extra challenging for Deaf young people encountering communication barriers with new work colleagues.
That is why businesses across Exmouth have stepped in to give our College students vital work experience, and they say that it’s been just as much of a learning experience for their workforce too.
Exmouth businesses who have provided work placements for our students say that the experience has enhanced their team’s communication skills and raised their awareness about people who are Deaf. It has helped build great links between the Exmouth community and the Deaf Academy, ahead of our relocation from Exeter to a new purpose-built Academy on the former Rolle College campus in Exmouth in 2019.
Our students have placements as part of their Work Related Learning at the Academy, which includes one-to-one support from Student Support Workers and help with day-to-day communication with their hearing colleagues, from their Communication Support Worker (CSW).
Andrew, 19, a GFE student, has been assisting the kitchen team at Kings Garden and Leisure, in Higher Hulman Road, working in the restaurant, for his weekly work placement.
He says the placement has not only learned new skills in catering and customer service but staff have also boosted his confidence.
Nicky King, who owns the business with her husband Richard, said Andrew’s dedication has been “amazing” in his work at the 250-seat restaurant and the experience has been a valuable “learning curve” for her team.
“I think we started out thinking it would be easy,” she said. “The working side was, but we have learned a lot about communication. For example, we needed to learn how to get Andrew’s attention.
“He would be happily working away and we would normally shout over to get attention, but with Andrew, we needed to walk over and give him a tap on the arm.
“Andrew has a Communication Support Worker who uses British Sign Language (BSL) but we also like communicating directly with him too. He works hard at everything, from prepping the vegetables to getting everything ready for the restaurant. He’s got that twinkle in his eye and he’s calm and friendly. He’s getting on really well and we can see he’s happy in our team.”
She added: “We employ some staff who have learning difficulties anyway, so we are aware about supporting people to overcome challenges, as we have a diverse workforce.
“It’s rewarding for us and it’s given Andrew confidence and self-esteem as he’s been given a chance. I treat him the same as everyone else. The problem is when people are afraid of the unknown and then they don’t give someone a chance or they give them special leniency and don’t supervise or train them like other staff.
“The key is for staff to have a routine, so they are supported but can get on with their work without someone looking over their shoulder, which they really appreciate.”
Nicky is keen to encourage other employers to recruit Academy students for work placements. She said: “I am really into trying to encourage people to employ people with disabilities, like Andrew.
“We have three staff who have learning difficulties, which require the team to give extra attention, and it’s done our workforce a lot of good.
“If employers are thinking about employing a Deaf worker like Andrew, or others with additional needs, they can chat to me. I’d encourage employers to give them an opportunity.
“Andrew’s work placement has been a good learning curve. He’s been amazing.”
Andrew said: “I’ve really enjoyed my work experience at Kings Garden and Leisure in Exmouth. I work independently because all the staff are really good at communicating with me and will teach me new skills in the kitchen and café. My confidence has improved!”
Luka, 18, a Foundation Learning student at our college, has recently completed his work placement at Auto-Q garage and tyre fitters in St Andrew’s Road.
The business is owned by Rick Sadiq and run by his manager, Peter Avery.
Peter said: “Luka has learned skills from how to fit a tyre and adjust tyre pressure to checking oil levels. He’s been calm and collected and shown he is safety conscious.
“We have learned a lot too. The effect of Luka’s work placement on our communication skills has been breathtaking. The most important learning that we have taken out of it is about our own communication. It has really sharpened up.
“Luka’s Communication Support Worker has helped him communicate with us but we have also talked directly to him, using body language and his lip-reading.
“We didn’t realise that we often speak in a muffled way, or use slang, in the workshop. Everyone has improved how clearly we phrase our words and use our grammar. Luka’s work placement has improved our team’s communication skills tremendously in the workshop.”
Luka said: “I have really enjoyed my work experience at the garage. I have learnt how to pump up tyres on a car that I found very interesting. The staff have been really nice and helpful.”
Carina Davis, the Academy’s Work Related Learning Assistant, said: “It is always good news when we find new work experience placements for our students and especially great when we receive the positive feedback from employers.
“Work experience is important to our young people as the best place to learn about work is to be in a real work place. Learning about work is fundamental to making choices and decisions about what to learn, what qualifications to aim for and what job to aspire to”.
If you are interested in supporting Exeter Deaf Academy students in work experience opportunities, please contact Carina Davis, Work Related Learning Coordinator on 01392 267023 or email email@example.com.
Find out more about Work related learning at the Academy by visiting our website here.