Festival Place and Dove House Partnership helps young learners fly
Basingstoke Shopping Centre Festival Place has partnered with specialist provision, Dove House Post 16, to help young people and adults with learning difficulties move into mainstream employment.
The shopping and leisure destination is supporting 18-year-old Adam Graham in the second year of a supported internship programme organised by Dove House School Academy’s Post 16 provision team.
Adam, who has speech, language and communication difficulties, is part of the Festival Place Customer Lounge team, where he works three days a week. The other two days he spends at Dove House Post 16, studying and preparing for employment and life as an adult.
The study programmes are carefully tailored to each individual to give them the skills and support they need to achieve in the workplace – with the aim of being taken into employment by the final term of the internship programme.
Festival Place Customer Services Manager Sonya Elliott supervises Adam in his Customer Lounge role.
“I have seen a massive change in Adam,” she said.
“I can hardly visualise the shy boy he was when he first started when I see the confident young man he is now; he is amazing.
“To start with he couldn’t stop shaking and he stuttered quite a bit. But I always tell him to be loud and proud because of how well he’s done. He will say hello to anybody, and he always has a smile.
“He’s had to manage so many different roles in the Customer Lounge, from giving people directions to selling gift cards, handling the tills, dealing with enquiries, and taking in dry cleaning. This helps with his maths and personal skills, and we have had lots of positive feedback from the customers.
“Adam is confident, he’s funny, he has a really cheeky character. It’s been lovely to see that blossoming. I think this scheme is just amazing. It gives these young adults the opportunities they need and deserve – we will definitely continue to support the programme.”
Adam is also delighted with the progress he has made since starting at Festival Place.
“I was very nervous at first,” he said. “But it was much better than I thought. People were very friendly. It has boosted my confidence and I find it much easier to speak to customers now – it’s my favourite part of the job.
“Dove House and Festival Place have completely changed my life, from making me more confident, to the way I am with people. I have made lots of friends, and I am very happy. I know my family are really pleased and they are proud of me, too.”
Hannah Stroud, Assistant Headteacher at Dove House and Head of Post 16, said: “Social isolation and unemployment are not uncommon among young people and adults with special educational needs.
“What we aim to do at Dove House Post 16 is work with a range of employers across the community to identify and utilise our young people’s strengths and give these amazing individuals the confidence, independence and skills to be successful in the workplace.
“The national average for people with learning difficulties getting into employment is around six per cent. At Dove House Post 16, our figure this year is projected to be around 80-90 per cent, and that is because of the partnerships we have built with many committed employers across Basingstoke, and all of the hard work they are willing to put in.
“The Festival Place team are amazing with Adam. They are passionate in wanting to learn more about what they can do, and how they can help Adam develop.
“Adam started at Dove House School when he was 11 and has moved right through into Post 16. Our aim is to transfer him into work through the two-year internship, and it will be amazing to have supported him all the way along that journey.
“Since he started at Festival Place, we have seen a huge difference in Adam – particularly with his confidence. He is a totally different person.”
For more information on Dove House School Academy or Post 16, visit http://www.dovehouseacademy.com/learning-2/post-16-provision/.