Sodexo has been named as City and Islington College’s Employer Partner of the Year, after offering a series of work placements to students with learning disabilities.

Sodexo provided work placements for five students this academic year, two at its London headquarters at One Southampton Row, one at the TFL offices in Baker Street, one at Atkins’ London headquarters and one on Bateaux London, a Sodexo-operated dining cruise boat on the Thames. The placements typically lasted 13 weeks, providing students with a vital insight into the world of work.

City and Islington College’s courses offer students the opportunity to progress towards job opportunities within sectors such as retail, gardening and catering. The Supported Learning team creates individually-tailored programmes for students wishing to undertake or recommended to undertake work experience as part of their course.  

Colin Jones, Work Placement Officer, City and Islington College said; “For a number of reasons it can be very hard for people with learning difficulties to enter the workforce. Only 9% of people with learning disabilities who want to work are actually in work. These types of work placements are absolutely vital for our students to give them a chance to learn work skills and to give them the confidence to pursue employee opportunities in the future.”

Diane Jones, services manager at Sodexo’s One Southampton Row headquarters, hosted two students as part of this programme. The students both completed a 13 week placement, coming in one day per week. One of the students spent time in the kitchen and was particularly involved in baking, as well as serving lunch at the food counter. The second student worked in a front of house role, supporting on reception and spending time in the postroom.

She comments; “My team found this a hugely rewarding experience. At first we were quite apprehensive about how the placements would work, but very quickly the students became part of the team. They were professional in their approach and it was great to see their confidence grow. At the same time, it was a good exercise for our team, because we had to think about things differently and to adapt our communication and management style to meet the needs of the students. For example, by the end of the placements our catering team had all picked up some basic signing.”

Sodexo will host another four students between September and November.

City and Islington College has a dedicated work experience officer who works closely with the Camden Society and a vast range of reputable employers.  Each learner has the opportunity to work with a job coach during their work placement to further enhance employability skills. These strong links support students in progressing onto work opportunities once they’ve completed their chosen course at the college.

Sodexo is committed to recruiting and retaining people with disabilities and to provide an inclusive service to disabled customers and clients. The programme with City and Islington College builds on similar schemes that Sodexo has worked on in partnership with its clients such as GSK, Central Manchester University Hospitals and AstraZeneca.

In Cheshire, Sodexo partners with the Seashell Trust, a charity that operates a specialist school and further education college for children and adults with complex and severe learning disabilities which include little or no language abilities. Since 2011 Sodexo has been providing supported work experience placements for Seashell Trust students at AstraZeneca’s sites in Alderley Park & Macclesfield.

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