Employer in the Spotlight: intu Eldon Square

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

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.

Next up is 21-year-old Rafique Uddin, who has been on placement at intu Eldon Square since September.

It’s a busy Friday morning at intu Eldon Square and Rafique Uddin is in position on the Customer Service desk.

Rafique attends a work placement at the shopping centre in Newcastle one day a week and his duties involve answering customer enquiries, working in lost property and carrying out promotional duties in the mall.

He is currently in his second year at Hedleys College and accesses the Vocational Programme – a specialist course for young people aged 16-25 years with complex learning needs and multiple disabilities (physical, medical and/or sensory).

Following a multi-disciplinary initial and baseline assessment by specialist tutors and therapy professionals, students access individual, differentiated and well-structured programmes with a day on external work experience and four days in College training in one of our pathways: Hospitality and Catering, Business Administration or Horticulture.

Rafique’s learning outcome is to take part in work experience suited to his interests, skills and abilities, complete work placement in a customer service environment and plan to travel to his placement with support.

Since starting, Sharon Sommerville, Customer Service Coordinator at intu Eldon Square, has noticed how much Rafique has grown in confidence in speaking to customers and what they as the employer have learnt of reasonable adjusts needed in place for our learners in the work place.

Sharon said: “I have loved working with Raf, he is so lovely and is willing to learn, everything I have told him he has listened and is very keen to learn. He enjoys serving the customers and has really opened up, he has shared the ability, to do the job very well and is a pleasure to learn and work with.”

Paula Stott, Customer Service Advisor, also works with Rafique.

She said: “Raf was really shy at first, but we saw a change in him after a few months. He was much more confident and outgoing.

“Having Raf around has given us a better understanding of disability access and increased our awareness of problems disabled people encounter when they are out shopping.

“Everybody knows Raf, he’s a lovely character, We treat him the same as every other member of staff. He’s just become one of the team.

“There have been a few times when people have come to the desk and ignored Raf, but we have a little understanding that if people try to get my attention instead of his, I go off and pretend I am busy! It’s about changing people’s perceptions of disability.

“Most of our regular customers make a beeline for Raf when he’s in and they enjoy chatting to him.”

Rafique has certainly got a lot out of his time at intu, he said: “I really like the people there. Even though I’m working they make it really fun and I’ve made some new friends.

“The tasks I do have made me feel a lot more comfortable about being out in the community and I feel much more confident than I did before I started.

“I hope the skills I have developed will help me get a job when I leave college.”

Work placements are organised by Hedleys Employability. To find out more click here