March 5, 2020
Newcastle College offers education for everyone and works closely with employers to ensure that all of its programmes can lead to real jobs.
Its Learning for Life programmes were created to enable young people aged 16-24 and living with a disability or learning difficulty to progress, prepare for employment and learn to live independently. Learners on the programme can choose a route that fits their own interests and existing skills, with the aim of helping them to develop vital life skills, as well as vocational ones.
The Supported Internship is a part of the programme designed to offer students with varying learning difficulties the opportunity to gain work experience before a possible move into employment or progression to an Inclusive Apprenticeship in Customer Service.
Many learners on this programme work and gain experience in a supportive environment at an on-campus café, but the college also works in close partnership with a number of employers across the North East to deliver opportunities for its Learning for Life students.
One of those employers is Tyne Riverside Café, based in Prudhoe. Set up in December 2018, it is run by café manager Paula Lathan, with the support of Chrysalis Training Services and its head of learning Victoria Tipling.
Ten learners have been supported through internships and traineeships since it opened, before moving on to paid employment or other opportunities.
Steven Clark is the first in the café to progress to an Inclusive Apprenticeship with Newcastle College. “Steven is our first intern at the café to progress into an apprenticeship,” explains Victoria. “That’s because having maths and English GCSEs have always been a requirement for an apprenticeship, which a lot of our students don’t have.
“With Newcastle College, we have now been able to develop a new type of apprenticeship. This means Steven can continue working here while getting the support he needs to achieve maths and English.”
Victoria continues: “We have another two learners at different training venues who we are hoping will also progress into an apprenticeship with the college next year.
“It’s something that we want to do a lot more of and it’s really worthwhile because now Steven gets an additional year of training but with education attached to it. It’s not just a job; there’s progression at the end of it and for Steven that’s really important. It will all support him in looking for paid work in the future.”
Like all apprenticeships, this type of training is about creating a career path and helping learners develop the skills they need for their future.
For young people who haven’t received that opportunity elsewhere, the chance to gain that independence is invaluable. To the café and similar businesses, supporting a diverse workforce brings benefits of its own.
“The concept brings a lot of groups from the community here,” continues Victoria. “We get local schools, Alzheimer’s groups and people with carers coming in.
“It’s known that we train students with disabilities here, so people who might often be excluded from rural or busy coffee shops are comfortable coming here. We’ve created a safe environment and that’s important to a lot of people.”
That safe environment is one of the most important things the café can offer, to both its customers and supported employees.
“We do have other staff here and we make it very clear when we’re recruiting that this isn’t just a catering job,” Victoria confirms. “We explain that you’re going to be around students with disabilities and helping to train them too.
We have to make sure we get the right fit because it’s a unique environment.
“If students leave us after an internship or an apprenticeship, we are always here for them to come back to and get extra support for interviews and things. So if it doesn’t go to plan once they leave us, we’re still here to help them out.
“Working with Newcastle College is brilliant. The relationship is very much focused on the learner and what support they need. If we ever have any problems, they get resolved straight away.”
Paula adds: “The regular visits are important. Steven’s skills trainer from Newcastle College always has dates booked in to visit us, so I know if we have questions or issues, she will be coming to see us soon. Plus, she’s always available on the phone or by email.”
The college recently celebrated the success of its apprenticeship programmes, apprentices and employers at the annual Newcastle College Apprenticeships Awards. The event, held at St James’ Park in Newcastle, formed part of National Apprenticeship Week celebrations.
Steven was nominated for the Special Recognition Award, which recognises apprentices who have overcome significant challenges or barriers to continue to succeed in their apprenticeship. He was named runnerup in the category while Tyne Riverside Café won Apprentice Employer of the Year. The nomination praised Paula in particular, describing her as a ‘dedicated, supportive and engaging manager.’
“It was a total shock to win because we had no idea we were even nominated!” Paula reflects. “We were there to support Steven, so it was a lovely surprise.”
“Things like that wouldn’t happen if it weren’t for having people like Steven,” Victoria concludes. “It just opens up so many different opportunities.”
Apprentice spotlight: Steven Clark
Steven, 20, spent a year on a Supported Internship with Newcastle College before progressing to a part-time Inclusive apprenticeship, splitting his time between college and the café
Tell us about your apprenticeship
I don’t have one main role, I do a little bit of everything in the café and help out. I was originally on a Supported internship with Newcastle College in a hotel but it wasn’t for me, so I asked if I could transfer and I ended up at the café.
Do you enjoy your apprenticeship now?
Yes, I love working with Paula and speaking to all of the customers who come in. I would recommend it to anyone else who wanted to do something similar.
Has working here helped you?
Yes, definitely! I’ve got better communication skills and better time-keeping. I’ve learned a lot and I think I know more about working now.
What does the college element of the apprenticeship involve?
I spend a day every week doing English and maths and I also spend a day working in a coffee shop on campus, The Dancing Bean. It’s really busy with lots of different students, so I think that has helped me and I enjoy the support I get at college too.