We are delighted to announce that our candidate Henrietta, known as Hetti, has successfully gained a paid, permanent position with furnishing retailer Dunelm in one of their stores in south west England. Hetti’s role is Café Assistant and she has a range of duties such as cleaning tables and taking food to customers. Her placement represents an expansion of our partnership with Dunelm following placements in Wales and the East Midlands. Hetti’s story demonstrates the effectiveness of the WorkFit process for candidates and employers, as Dunelm have been very pleased by the positive impact on their workplace.
Hetti registered with WorkFit in April 2017 because she wanted to gain a greater level of personal independence. The first stage of the process was an assessment meeting where Hetti made clear her desire to gain a long-term career in catering. Through collaborative work with Hetti’s support team we were able to identify her local Dunelm branch as a suitable employer. The local Employment Development Officer made an approach to the store manager, who was open to employing a candidate in store.
Hetti then met the store manager, Timmy, for an informal interview. Hetti was understandably very nervous, but made a strong impression on Timmy so that she invited her in for a one day work trial to meet the team. Hetti again made a very strong impression and was offered a work experience placement. This two stage interview process, tailored to the learning profile associated with Down’s syndrome, allows our candidates to showcase their potential to employers.
Once Hetti’s placement was confirmed, staff from Dunelm received a free session of Down’s syndrome Awareness Training at their workplace. This covered a range of areas that would help the team to work effectively with Hetti, such as support strategies and Myths and Facts about Down’s syndrome. Feedback was positive: “Interesting and learnt new information”; “Thorough information, accessible and clear”.
Dunelm have been delighted by Hetti. Colleague feedback and reviews of her work to date have been excellent and her co-workers look forward to working with her on the days that she is scheduled to work. Her interaction with the customers is one area where she has excelled. Her team leader Clare told us: “Hetti has been very reliable and always on time, she knows her job and get on well with the team and the customers”.
Hetti’s manager Timmy spoke for the whole team when she told us: “Hetti has been like a breath of fresh air since joining our team. She has settled in with ease, is very friendly and always goes out of her way to speak to colleagues. She has surprised us with how much she has grown since joining us, both in her confidence and her knowledge. When Hetti first joined us, she needed assistance getting to the store. She now makes her own way every week and she is very proud of that achievement. She was not fazed at all when meeting the HR and area manager on their store visit and spoke to them with assurance. Best of all was her positive attitude and it was obvious that she loved it here!”
Hetti’s support team have been delighted. They told us that “It has been a great opportunity for Hetti to go to Dunelm. As her support workers we have seen her confidence grow as she has taken on new responsibilities and challenges. She has learnt many new skills, she has formed new friendships. Hetti has benefited and is enjoying the whole process, she is now very hopeful that the placement many lead into a permanent position.”
Hetti’s parents told us: “Hetti has been with Dunelm over a year now and we are very proud of what Hetti has achieved”
Hetti is thrilled to have gained such valuable experience. She told us that “I like to look at the WorkFit website on my iPad and to see other people working like me on the videos I would love it if they made a video at Dunelm”
Hetti’s self-esteem and independence have improved dramatically due to the new skills in customer service and teamwork she has gained from her position. She has been able to move into a more independent living arrangement and no longer requires night support and also appeared at our 2018 South West Conference with Timmy, making a moving speech that brought some in the audience to tears.
What Hetti has achieved is remarkable and she is truly an inspiration to us all. Her story shows the ability of WorkFit candidates to make a positive contribution in busy, customer facing catering environments and how our process works to benefit employers and candidate. We thank Dunelm for their support for WorkFit and wish all of them the very best for the future. We look forward to expanding our work with them across England and Wales in the coming years.
We welcome enquiries from catering employers who can see the benefits of employing a WorkFit candidate in the South West of England. Please call 0333 12 12 300 for a confidential no obligation discussion with our team.
WorkFit supports people with Down’s syndrome to access meaningful work opportunities that can benefit the rest of their lives. For more information about WorkFit please contact the email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information visit the Work Fit website: www.dsworkfit.org.uk