Over the last five years, Edgbaston Priory Club has been working in partnership with the Heart of Birmingham Vocational College (HBVC) to provide work placements for young adults with special educational needs, including autism.
This began with the provision of group placements, which we still facilitate today, and has gradually developed to offer supported internships. These internships allow learners who have been identified as having the potential to succeed in specific roles greater access to work experience and in-job training. In year one we facilitated one placement within the grounds department, and in year two we have added two further placements in the Bar & Bistro and the Housekeeping departments.
As part of the development of the grounds supported intern, we have been looking at alternative communication strategies to allow them to work independently. This has led us to working with the college to adopt the use of Widgit Symbols in order to make the workplace more accessible. Towards the end of 2019, the grounds department secured the donation of an iPad, and have been working with our supported intern to build a portfolio of tasks and job sheets on the iPad using the widgit symbols.
This has been a great success, allowing our intern to work more independently, completing tasks in the same way as any other member of the grounds team. This in turn has helped boost their confidence, positivity and their future employment prospects.
As our Grounds Manager, David Lawrence says:
“Widgit symbols are effective for the young people we work with as they often don’t learn in ways many of us would take for granted. This doesn’t make them any less able, but rather an alternative approach is sometimes needed in order to make the information we are trying to convey accessible. By using this more visual method of communication and instruction, we are able to make the workplace more accessible to everyone.
Doing this on a tablet also has some major advantages, allowing us us to personalise the Widgit text to our specific work environment. For example, if we were setting a task for one of our supported interns to hoover a meeting room, we would be able to take a photo of the hoover they should use, where to get it from, and which room needs hoovering. These kinds of instructions are easy for our supported interns to follow and understand and allow them to complete tasks on their own.”
This innovative use of an everyday ipad has proved so successful, we are now looking at rolling out the approach to the other supported interns on placement at the club.
We are therefore seeking donations of any old tablets that members may no longer be using, that could be reconditioned and loaded with the appropriate software for our supported interns to use, as well as potentially other supported interns working within our community across Birmingham.