A teenager with Down’s syndrome has gained a place on a college course after enjoying a 12-week placement at Greenfields Community Housing.
Earlier this year, Ben Garwood, 19, spent a day a week with a Greenfields tradesperson, who taught him an array of skills.
Until last year, he had limited experience of a working environment; other than weekly work experience at Essex Fire & Rescue Service, which was arranged by Down Syndrome Extra 21, a local support group.
When Andrew Shortridge, Greenfields’ Operations Manager, became aware that Ben was looking for work experience that would teach him some tools of the trade, he arranged for Ben, from Kelvedon, to do a few weeks of work experience at Greenfields last year. This has now led to Ben being enrolled in a Construction Skills Course at Braintree College, which begins this month.
Andrew says: “I heard about Ben through my wife, who works with his mum. I have a disabled relative myself and understand the difficulties families can have in finding suitable and meaningful work experience placements. My colleagues felt the same, and I knew Greenfields could help really help. Ben says of his work experience: “It was brilliant and everyone was nice to me. I went out with the electricians and plumbers and got to see what they do.”
When Ben returned to Greenfields for another three months’ work experience this year, he was given some tools and put to the test! His newly acquired skills included woodwork, putting up handrails and fixing window hinges. Andrew explains that this time around, they wanted him to build upon his skills and confidence: “Ben has definitely matured and developed his communication, knowledge and working skills. It’s been a great experience and journey for us, too.”
Simon Garwood, Ben’s Dad, said: “Andrew put together a really good work programme for Ben. He was always up 20 minutes early, even though it was a longer day than he was used to! There’s no doubt it’s been one of the highlights of his year.”
Ben agrees: “The best part has been working with tradesmen and helping out with tasks at Stores, like issuing materials. It’s helped me to learn. I feel more confident and understand more.”
Ben will now attend a Life Skills course at Chelmsford College in the day, and Greenfields is supporting Ben to attend a Level 1 Cert in Construction Skills at Braintree College in the evening; with a different staff member taking him to each class to mentor and support him as he learns carpentry, plastering, painting & decorating and tiling skills.
Simon is very thankful for Greenfields support: “We’re really excited about the evening course and so grateful for the support; it’s great that someone will be with him each time.”
Greenfields’ Head of Repairs and Maintenance, Scott Bridge, feels that working with Ben has been an extremely valuable experience for Greenfields staff: “Ben brightened our days with his humour and positive attitude, and we’ve enjoyed seeing him grow. We’ve also learnt from him, and he’s left a lasting impression on us.”
Ben wants to build and repair homes in the future, after being inspired by seeing Greenfields’ new developments.
Click on this link to find out about gaining work experience at Greenfields: Work experience