Thanks to the support of employers across the North East, Hedleys Employability has placed 73 disabled young people and adults within companies to gain valuable work experience in the last year.
In a series of features, we go behind the scenes at some of the work placements organised by the Hedleys Employability team to see how both employer and employee benefit from the experience.
Next up is Jack Bell, who attends Northern Counties School in Jesmond. Jack’s placement was at Tesco Simonside, South Shields, where he went one day a week for five months.
Jack has been finding out what it’s like to work at grocery giant Tesco.
The Northern Counties School student has a moderate to severe hearing impairment and showed an interest in retail after he attended a Farm to Fork session delivered at Tesco in Sunderland.
After building links through Whizz Kidz, Hedleys Employability sourced a placement for Jack at Tesco in Simonside, South Shields, for 5 weeks.
Jack attended his placement every Tuesday between 10am-3pm and his tasks included pricing and labelling products and operating the training checkout.
He enjoyed his time at the store so much he expressed a desire to extend his placement.
Store Manager, Helen Harber, was only too happy to accommodate Jack and extended the placement until the end of July.
As an organisation they have learnt so much from Jack about his ability to carry out tasks, as Helen explains.
“Jack will not allow anything to defeat him, he makes himself known to the customers and staff,” Helen said.
“Initially I thought Jack’s hearing impairment would be a barrier but this hasn’t been the case. We have found alternative ways to communicate.
“Having Jack here has taught us a lot about communicating with deaf people. When Jack first came I probably aimed most of our conversation at his interpreter but now I focus on Jack when we’re talking.
“For me personally, it’s taught me a lot having Jack with us and it’s taught us a lot about different disabilities. Through our links with Whizz Kids we tend to come across individuals who use wheelchairs so it has been good to have Jack who has a very different impairment.”
Following Jack’s placement, Tesco have also invited Hedleys Employability into store to deliver disability awareness training to staff.
Helen said: “Staff are really keen to get involved in some disability awareness training and it’s something we’ll be able to take a lot from.
“We’re a small store so we work with a lot of disabled customers who prefer coming here than going to one of our bigger stores.
“Having Jack on placement has not only been about communication, it’s taught us a lot in terms of accessibility as well.
“Jack’s a lovely young man and it’s been a privilege to work with him. We can see that he gets so much out of it and it makes me proud to work with him and be able to offer him this opportunity.”