Calsonic2Hedleys Employability recently arranged for a group of college students to visit Calsonic in Washington.

Calsonic manufactures heating ventilation and air conditioning units and also operates a number of on-site assembly lines at Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK Limited.

On the day students listened to a presentation about Calsonic and the roles they may have available, experienced a virtual tour of the production line were they had to all wear Personal Protective Equipment.

They also took part in a tour of the premises where they could see what equipment is produced and meet some staff. Afterwards, staff and students were involved in a variety of interactive games related to the job roles at Calsonic, which was great fun.


They were then all handed certificates from the ‘big boss’ at the end of the day!

Here’s some feedback from Calsonic: “We are all delighted that the students enjoyed the day. It was a great experience and we will have to get something in the diary for a repeat visit in the latter half of the year.”

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Bond Dickinson Double cheque presThe Percy Hedley Foundation is delighted to have received yet more support from Newcastle law firm Bond Dickinson.

The Quayside-based firm presented a cheque for £427 to students from Hedleys College, which will go towards social enterprise projects and the purchase of specialist iMUSE technology.

It follows a previous donation of £1600, which Bond Dickinson presented to the charity last September.

The Percy Hedley Foundation currently offers iMUSE – Interactive Multi-Sensory Environments – technology to disabled people at their day service in North Shields, but the charity hopes to bring it to more people in the community with the acquisition of portable equipment.

iMUSE technology improves the quality of life for children and adults with physical disabilities and profound and multiple learning difficulties using music and visuals.

Bond Dickinson’s donation will bring the Foundation’s plans a step closer and the law firm’s support of the charity doesn’t stop there.

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Earlier this year, they donated 26 Easter eggs to the Hedleys College residential unit in Jesmond and they have also sponsored three of this year’s College Awards with another donation of £150.

Staff at the law firm, which employs over 500 people in the North East, raised money by holding raffles, dress down days and bake offs.

Furthermore, the firm has also supported work placements and supported students doing a Toolkit for employers, which involves looking at documents, such job specifications and adverts to make them easy to read.

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Asmah Baig, Community Relations Programme Manager at Bond Dickinson, presented the cheque to students recently and explained why the firm is keen to continue – and develop – their support for the Foundation.

“A while ago we asked staff who they wanted to support through our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Programme and they decided on Percy Hedley after reading and hearing about their work,” Asmah said.

“We wanted to work with a charity that does serious things and really makes a difference and Percy Hedley certainly does this.

“I would like us to get even more involved with Percy Hedley and hopefully we will be able to provide valuable work experience opportunities in the future.

“I think we could learn a lot from the students. They are a joy to be around.”

Christine Shanks, Hedleys Employability Project Manager, said: “I’m amazed at the amount of support Bond Dickinson has given us. Our relationship has developed over the years and Asmah goes above and beyond in her role as Community Relations Programme Manager.

“She is passionate about bringing equality to life and fairness for all, which supports staff to be disability aware and confident.

“She makes it possible for students to see people working in a variety of different roles and this gives them a great insight to the working environment. It also gives staff a great opportunity to see the ability of disabled people.

“We would like to thank Asmah and everyone at Bond Dickinson for their wonderful support.”

Thanks to the support of employers across the North East, Hedleys College currently has 46 students placed within companies to gain valuable work experience.

In a series of features, we go behind the scenes at some of our work placements organised by Hedleys Employability to see how both employer and employee benefit from the experience.

First up is 21-year-old Ranjit Kaur, who has been on placement at intu Metrocentre since September.


It’s one o’clock on a Friday afternoon and Ranjit Kaur is working away at her desk inside the management suite at intu Metrocentre.

The 21-year-old student, who is in her second year at Hedleys College, attends a work placement every Friday at the shopping centre in Gateshead.

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At college, Ranjit accesses the Vocational Programme – a specialist vocational course for young people aged 16-25 with complex learning needs and multiple disabilities – and trains in one of the pathways on offer, Business Administration.

Ranjit’s placement at intu Metrocentre fits in perfectly with this pathway as her role involves administrative work including office tasks and duties.

The staff at intu Metrocentre have certainly made Ranjit welcome during her placement. She has her own desk and computer, as well as an official intu uniform.

Hedleys Employability works with employers to break down the barriers they envisage to employing a disabled person, and students to increase their skills and ready them for future employment.

Sarah Dover, Guest Services Manager at intu Metrocentre, says Ranjit has become an important part of the team.

Ranjit Metrocentre

“We’ve had a number of work placements from Percy Hedley since we first got involved with Employability in 2010.

“Ranjit is a great member of the team, she gets through a lot of work when she’s here and is really efficient. The team love her and she brings diversity to the team.

“She has her own desk and computer and mostly does administrative tasks, which is what she enjoys. She inputs data onto spreadsheets and soon she will be going out into the malls to do some customer facing work.

“We’ve noticed a big change in Ranjit since she joined us. She’s got so much more confidence now and won’t even let her support worker into the office when she’s here! She likes to be at her desk and with the team.

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“Her communication skills have improved too. She wears our full uniform and really enjoys being part of the team.”

A previous placement in the centre’s Shop Mobility department led to a permanent position for former student Sadaf, and Sarah is hopeful Ranjit will also become a permanent member of staff in the future.

Ranjit says she has learned so much: “I really enjoy everything about it. It’s fun and I get lots of experience of being in the workplace. I’ve made lots of friends too.

“It’s given me a lot of skills and more confidence, and I hope it will help me get a job when I leave college.

“The employability team have been great and supported me throughout my placement. It’s helped me learn lots and develop as a person.”

intu Metrocentre’s partnership with The Percy Hedley Foundation doesn’t stop at work placements.

Staff have raised money by doing activities such as the Great North Run and Hadrian’s Wall Walk, while a team also visited Percy Hedley School and spent a day tidying the garden ready for summer.

“Staff get a lot out of working with Percy Hedley,” Sarah added.

“Hedleys Employability also gave our team disability awareness training, which everyone found very useful and interesting.

“The team really liked the fact that the training was led by service users and it taught us a lot.”

Hedleys College teams up with Youth Focus: NE to deliver skills programme

Hedleys College recently teamed up with Youth Focus: North East to deliver an eight week skills programme to students.

Students took part in and completed the ‘Reducing the Skills Gap’ pre-employability programme, which looked at a number of skills potential employers look for.

Seven learners aged 19-21 completed the induction day, communication, and teamwork modules, while evidencing their leaning through a series of City and Guilds endorsed digital badges.

Young people often face multiple barriers to employment, not least having a disability and this was the first time Reducing the Skills Gap had been delivered with young people with disabilities.

On Thursday 21 January, the team from Youth Focus: North East and learners from Percy Hedley College came together to reflect on and celebrate the achievements of the last eight weeks.

During the evaluation, the group were able to recall a remarkable amount of information and talk about how they plan to use their skills in finding employment.

The group enjoyed it so much, they’ve asked their teachers whether Youth Focus: North East can come back every week!

The partnership between Hedleys College and Youth Focus: North East was set up by the Hedleys Employability team, who work to increase employment opportunities for disabled people.

If you want to find out about how Reducing the Skills Gap can be used to support your young people, please contact


Hedleys Employability launch business breakfast event

Hedleys Employability, part of The Percy Hedley Foundation, is holding its next Breakfast Awareness Session in March.

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Held at the Britannia Hotel at Newcastle Airport, this event is part of a series of events in the run up to large national conference being held in the region at the end of this year which will focus on disabled people accessing employment.

‘What Are You Saying’ takes place on Friday, March 4, and will be delivered by David Burdus, the director of Burdus Access Management. He will take a brief look at the medical and social models of disability, explaining how our language betrays our thinking, influences perception and can make or break stereotype.

The event is free to all employers from the region and all you need to do is pre-register and turn up. Starting at 8am and finishing at 9.30am, the session will give employers a real insight into the benefits to their company by offering work placements, work experience and permanent jobs to the disabled workforce.

Hedleys Employability, funded by the Big Lottery, works across the region to engage with employers to challenge perceptions and myths about the value of the disabled in the workplace.

Through training, engagement, seminars and mentoring, the Employability Project works with employers to break down barriers and raise awareness to disability to open up opportunities for disabled people in the workplace.

The project is managed by Christine Shanks and focuses on inclusion, awareness, building confidence and relationships.

“Many employers want to ‘do the right thing’ and often need support to achieve this.  Having disabled people represented in the workplace breaks down barriers and dispels old fashioned myths about disability,” Christine said.

“We work with disabled people matching their skills to those the employers are seeking.  We offer full customer care and support, so if you think you have an opening then why not come along.

“The event on March 4 will be engaging and enjoyable as well as being interactive. It will be thought provoking and demonstrate the need for further action.”

To book a place at this free event click here

For more information about the event and to please email or call 0191 2817532

Chinese teachers visit The Percy Hedley Foundation

The Percy Hedley Foundation hosted a delegation of teachers from China as part of a trip to learn more about British apprenticeships this week.

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The day was led by the Hedleys Employability team, who work across the region to develop employability opportunities for disabled people.

The group – from the Shandong Province of China – were visiting the North East in conjunction with Northumbria University to learn more about how to educate people in vocational skills.

Their first stop was Percy Hedley School, where Director of Education Lynn Watson and Employability Project Manager Christine Shanks delivered a presentation on the provisions on offer at the Foundation.

They then headed off to TDR Training Ltd, who provide placements for some of our college students, to learn about the work they do.

After enjoying lunch prepared by one of our students, Kate, who does a placement in the TDR café, the group visited our day centre at Orion Business Park to see some of the skills service users acquire there.

Xia Luqing, Vice Director of the Human Resources and Social Security department of Shandong Province said: “The aim of our visit was to learn all about the process in British apprenticeships.

“The work Percy Hedley Foundation does really benefits disabled people and gives them hope.

“It gives them the opportunity to add value to society and it’s a very big achievement.

“Apprenticeships have been widely used over time in China, but we are in the middle of reforming the system and we wanted to come and see how it is done over here.

“We are here to learn from your experiences, processes and ideology because a new economy style is coming to China and we have to adapt to it.”

Deborah Jones, Associate Lecturer at Northumbria University added: “This experience has enriched the delegation’s educational visit, providing a valuable insight into SEN provision within the UK.

“They really enjoyed their experience at The Percy Hedley Foundation and TDR Training.”