Marking the success of WorkFit North East at the Marriott

On 6 October 2017 we held our annual WorkFit North East Conference at the Marriott Hotel Metrocentre in Gateshead.

The WorkFit team at the conference

We were happy to welcome WorkFit members and their parents to the event as well as employers and professionals from a range of service providers, including the education and social care sectors.

During the day guests heard how WorkFit is successfully supporting jobseekers to secure roles and develop their careers.

10 of the 16 WorkFit candidates who have been assessed in the North East region are working, most of them in paid roles and the WorkFit team are committed to increasing this number.

Five candidates who have been successfully placed in work in the region – Jonathan, Lynsey, Luke, Louise and Sarah – shared their stories at the Conference.

A number of employers also took part and gave their perspective on WorkFit. All of them spoke of how rewarding being part of WorkFit is. Their involvement had enriched their workplace culture and up-skilled their staff. All the employers who spoke highlighted the benefits of WorkFit’s free training, advice and support that allayed any concerns they might have had.

Jonathan with his mother Jill

Jonathan (pictured right with his mother Jill) was the first candidate to speak. Jonathan has successfully progressed between paid jobs and gave the audience a candidate’s perspective on WorkFit:

“I wanted a job when I finished college and I saw the job with WorkFit for Cox Agri and I felt excited and I was over the moon of getting the job.

At Cox Agri I learnt a lot and here are tasks of what I did: Spreadsheets, Serial Numbers, Tag Boxes. Getting my payslip that made me special and proud.  I was part of the football syndicate – The Dream Team.

I now work for Allay (Real Time Claims) I have had travel training of how to get there and to get back home and then we talked about what days I should do then I am now doing the travel on my own now and I am independent.

Having a job makes me feel part of something and proud of something I have achieved”

Lynsey in her chef’s whites

Our hosts for the day, Marriott Metro Centre, employ Lynsey as a part-time kitchen and breakfast assistant. Her job is paid and she has a permanent contract. Head Chef Chris Wells joined Lynsey to give a presentation and summed up their experience of the programme:

“Lynsey came to work with me in July 2016 and I was really impressed by how quickly she picked things up. She was soon fully integrated in the team, taking on major tasks such as plating up meals for banquets and events, making various desserts and is a huge asset in the kitchen. Lynsey is well known by her colleagues in the hotel and our regular customers often chat to her and ask after her if she’s not around. Lynsey is an exceptional young lady”

Following his speech Chris presented Lynsey with a certificate and a special Marriott pin to recognise the completion of her first year’s employment.

Lynsey and Chris

Guests at work making profiteroles

Chris and Lynsey then led a very special activity for those attending who had Down’s syndrome. They were tasked with creating some special desserts for the conference lunch. Profiterole Towers were created and decorated and then consumed with enthusiasm.

The end result!

Over lunch delegates were able to meet other jobseekers and talk about their experiences of some of the key parts of job seeking, creating their CV and the work trial/informal interview.

The final presentation was from the Department for Work and Pensions. They provided some very useful information on the Access to Work fund and in particular about how job-seekers can apply for funds to help them to pay for the cost of travelling to and from work, for equipment and for job coaches. If you have registered on the WorkFit website you can find information about benefits here:  http://www.dsworkfit.org.uk/i-want-to-work/my-benefits/#information

Feedback from the event was overwhelmingly positive:

“Genuine and passionate presentations about the benefits and things learned by employing someone with Down’s syndrome.”

“Loved this! Can’t beat hearing from the participants themselves.”

“Thoroughly inspirational event”

“I thoroughly enjoyed the presentations from the employers and the jobseekers. It was amazing to see the pride and passion shining through”

The presentations from all the candidates were hugely inspiring.

Special thanks also to delegates Maya, Victoria and Craig who helped to draw the winning numbers in the free raffle of DSA t-shirts that added even more excitement to the day’s events. We would also like to thank Down’s Syndrome North East for their assistance with organisation and the Marriott for hosting.

Speakers with their DSA t-shirts

To read some of the stories of our inspirational jobseekers please go to: http://www.downs-syndrome.org.uk/blog-category/workfit/

We were also delighted to hear presentations from Luke, Louise and Sarah and their employers. We will be releasing more blogs in the coming weeks with their appearances at the conference.

To find out more about WorkFit and how we  support people with Down’s syndrome to access meaningful work opportunities that can benefit the rest of their lives, please contact the team on 0333 12 12 300 or email us on dsworkfit@downs-syndrome.org.uk

For more information visit the WorkFit website www.dsworkfit.org.uk