A 25-year-old Sheffield man who desperately wanted to provide a home for his partner and two young children has been given the break he needed, thanks to a partnership between disability employment specialists Remploy and Marks & Spencer.
Aaron Smith, who has autism, recently lost his warehousing job and his family home. It had been his first job for many years and he had pinned all his hopes for his and family’s future on it being successful.
“My working experience has been very limited because I need time to grasp what is required of me, and employers have just not been able to give me that chance,” said Aaron. “My dad, who is a plumber, understands perfectly, and over the years he has given me odd tasks to do but I really wanted a job and a life of my own.”
Aaron was referred by his local Jobcentre Plus office to Remploy, who then helped him secure a work placement on the innovative Marks & Start employability programme run by M&S in partnership with Remploy. It aims to give jobseekers who face complex barriers to employment, including people with disabilities and health conditions, the chance to develop their skills and gain valuable work experience over the course of a short-term placement.
“I gained on-the-job experience in the food department and learnt a lot about retailing,” said Aaron. “I worked alongside a buddy – somebody who stood by me, had endless patience and who offered just the kind of support I needed.”
Aaron’s abilities were recognised by his bosses at M&S on Ecclesall Road, and his position was soon converted into a part time job. He has just been offered full time employment at the Simply Food store, and knows he can really start planning for a brighter future.
Store manager Damien Wood added, “Whilst he has a disability, Aaron is treated no differently to anybody else – he is expected to do a good job, and he does. He also brings commitment and enthusiasm, and these are the key qualities we seek when looking for new people. He is one of five colleagues in this store alone to have benefitted from the Marks & Start initiative, and we hope many others will follow in his footsteps.”
Alex Leonard from Remploy’s specialist employment services branch on Campo Lane, Sheffield works with M&S to find the right candidates for its Marks & Start programme. “Through Remploy, M&S has access to capable and motivated candidates who are job-ready and well briefed about the demands of working in the retail sector.
“Since we were appointed by M&S as its disability partner in May 2011, we have supported well over 2,000 people into employment with the company, and that figure is increasing all the time. It’s a great success story for us and for people like Aaron who have the opportunity to return to work or find meaningful employment for the first time.”