The Perilous Path to Employment (2)


Previously in TPPE (1) I mentioned my acquaintance, Jake, a young adult with learning difficulties. who felt thrilled and excited at gaining his first taste of employment at the age of 24.  He was offered a post at a small local supermarket, packing shelves and working on the tills.

I met Jake again today, our third meeting for coffee (on my part) and hot chocolate (on Jake’s). He was very cheery and full of enthusiasm for his photography from a recent beachside holiday with his family. He had filled a whole photograph album of his wildlife and nature shots – a remarkable photographer actually, with a patience and skill I have never attained.

Jake did not wish to talk about his job, because he felt it would upset people in his family. He is a little wary about looking for new work at the moment, and by the way his demeanour changed when the subject was broached, it still seems a sore point and one that he is not willing to share.

I heard from Jake’s grandmother, my tennis playing acquaintance, that Jake was fired from his job after just two weeks because the supermarket manager felt that Jake wasn’t capable of working on the tills alone, and wasn’t able to work independently when checking stock or filling shelves. Jakes’ earlier tales to me, of difficulties with dealing with customers and checking the age of customers wanting to buy alcohol, did not bode well, but I had not realized quite how difficult things had been for Jake.

Jake’s elation at entering the world of work has been short lived. His despair now, echoes that of the past six years since leaving school and college. 

I have been invited to deliver further workshops for Connexions, in the early Autumn. The focus again is on young adults with learning difficulties and disabilities, making the transition from education to employment.

As the landscape all around us is changing, with the new wave of financial cuts fast brought in, changes to the Connexions services and services surrounding children and young people, I wonder what will be the status quo come October.

Certainly, my experiences with Connexions to date, and my short acquaintance with Jake, have helped me understand much more about that perilous path from education to employment.

It is simply not possible to disguise the very significant special needs of a young adult by a glossy looking C.V that masks difficulties and ignores needs. There is not a level playing field in the employment market for people like Jake.

It is not enough to pretend that all is well and that Jake will cope, independently, in the workplace, just because someone has produced a generic C.V. that allows a box somewhere to be ticked to say, our support commitment to this young man is now  satisfied.

One of the outcomes of any successful transition planning for all young adults making the move from education to employment, should be securing a sustained and purposeful transition to employment, that adds meaning to a young life. 

In Jake’s case, there has been no successful transition from education to employment. His very brief, two week experience of paid employment, has left him more scared and wary than before, less trusting, less inclined to be optimistic, to persevere. It has been a sad learning experience, and one that I feel Jake has come out of in a much better light than his more able and educated employers.

There is much that needs to be addressed if we are truly to attempt to include young adults with learning difficulties and disabilitiies in the workplace.

One final, and more positive note to end on, pleased me greatly. As we chatted, I noticed a series of framed wildlife photographs in the cafe, all available for sale. As I looked at Jake’s impressive photo collection of buzzards, and red kites, woodpeckers and a great number of birds and small animals that I fail to recollect, the gem of an idea developed. Jake is willing to frame and sell some of his photographs in the cafe, and in surrounding places. It was good to see Jake suddenly so animated and curious about the possibility. 

The staff at the Deli Cafe in Stratford upon Avon are remarkable in their service and commitment to the community around them. I cannot praise them enough. I can understand why Jake has a fondness for returning. 

I do hope that Jake’s interest in photography and the support of the cafe owners, may help him make a move towards some kind of independence. I am sure he would be thrilled to have one customer for his photographs, but in reality, there may well be many more. He really is an excellent photographer. 

Till another day,

Godspeed to you.


About HMStack

Independent Education Consultant (SEND) delivering local, regional and national services to providers within the public, private and third sector. Passionate about creating the context for positive change working with and on behalf of children, young people and their families, the conference and public policy sector and training organisations. An eclectic mix of clients includes schools and other educational settings, museums and heritage, service children and British Armed Forces support organisations and providers across the public, private and third sector. Educational writer, blogger and philosopher and aspiring screenwriter, inspired by drama and literary adaptations.

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