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.
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.
“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.
“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.”