Tag Archives: First experiences

Celebrating First Impressions, First Experiences at the Barbican Conservatory

On Monday night, we were pleased to welcome back 22 alumni from the First Impressions, First Experiences pre-employment training programme for a celebration event at the Barbican Conservatory.

Held in the beautiful tropical garden that is situated in the heart of the concrete jungle of the Barbican Centre, guests were welcomed to enjoy drinks and an assortment of canapés amongst the tropical flowers and trailing plants, under the huge glass roof of the conservatory.

The programme, which for the last four years has been funded by the Credit Suisse EMEA Foundation, was devised to support young disabled people who were not currently in employment, education or training. These young people were provided with a structured programme followed by additional weeks of tailored, one-to-one support. The aim was to increase their confidence and independence and help them to develop important skills to make life-changing career decisions, ensuring that they left the programme feeling career-ready.

The secret garden party was a way to celebrate the success of the programme, and highlight some key achievements that the young people have made.
We were so pleased to be joined by Michelle Mendelsson, a Trustee of the Credit Suisse EMEA Foundation, who welcomed guests, spoke about the success of the programme and seeing such brilliant results, such as the fact that 74% of young people are moving or have moved into work, further training and volunteering.

Comedian Alex Brooker spoke to the audience in his first ever appearance as a Scope Ambassador, and shared the importance, as he saw it, of building confidence in young disabled people, and the amazing way that the project had achieved this. He then introduced the two key speakers on the evening, Taylor and Felix, two young people who went through the programme, and whom Alex Brooker has since been mentoring in public speaking in preparation for the event.

It was truly inspirational to hear them speak about how the programme has affected their lives – Taylor spoke about the way that the programme had helped her get voluntary work at the Together! 2014 Disability Film Festival, and pursue her dream of working in film and television, while Felix shared the importance that the sense of community created by First Impressions, First Experiences has brought to him and his peers.

At the end of the evening, the young people collected a goody-bag of treats including notebooks, pens and a book on interview techniques, ‘Why You?’ by James Reed, kindly donated by the author.

Thank you so much to the Credit Suisse EMEA foundation for not only hosting and funding the event which gave the young people a chance to come together again, but also for supporting the programme over the last four years, which has successfully seen 101 participants through its doors. With the help of programmes such as this, Scope can get closer to seeing the employment gap halved by 2020.

I feel like I’m going in the right direction – Felix’s story

Twenty-five year-old Felix, from East London, recently completed First Impressions, First Experiences, a pre-employment course for young disabled job-seekers. In this guest post for Learning Disability Week, Felix explains how employers’ attitudes need to change, and the importance of role-models for young disabled people. 

Felix blog
Felix is optimistic about his future career

When people think of disabled people they usually think of somebody who’s using a wheelchair. If they took their blinders off, they would realise that there’s so much more to it than that.

The first thing we need is for employers to be educated about disability.

But the other thing is for disabled candidates to strike up the confidence to tell the employer: “This is my condition, this is the support I need”. I feel like I can do that now.

First Impressions, First Experiences

Before I joined First Impressions, I was working for a firm in East London. It didn’t go well, and I realised that while my Asperger’s syndrome isn’t something I should be ashamed of, it’s not something I can just ignore. I needed some support.

Doing things like CVs and interviewing techniques has been very useful. I’ve learnt things I hadn’t even heard about, like how to disclose that you’re disabled in a positive way. First Impressions also set up a work placement for me in an office, and from my first day there I knew it was going to be a good experience.

I wasn’t just left in one place – I was in marketing, HR, IT and the general office, so I got the chance to experience different areas and juggle different things.

I definitely feel I could do that kind of job now – I can pick up the phone and talk appropriately, I can sort through mail, I can do admin and so on. But my ideal career option would be a job which enables young people to realise their potential.

Felix sitting at a boardroom table talking to an employment advisor
Felix talking with a Scope employment advisor

What I’ve learned over the past six months

You can’t compare yourself to everybody else. Can you imagine how bland and boring the world would be if everybody was the same? Everybody brings something new to the table.

You may feel that the world doesn’t understand you, but it doesn’t mean that you have to let your life go downhill.

But you do need guidance, and this is where mentoring and ongoing support becomes handy as well.

Having role models is good too – you see someone like Nick Hamilton, the racing driver who has cerebral palsy, and you realise that what you want to do is possible, you just need to go about it the right way.

I feel that what I’ve learnt from First Impressions I can build on in the future.

I’m working towards being in employment. I’ll have to be tough, because I’m not quite where I want to be yet, but I feel like I’m going in the right direction.

Find out more about Scope’s employment programmes.

“Now I describe my disability as a strength” – #100days100 stories

Everything changed for 20-year-old Azar while on Scope’s pre-employment programme for young disabled people. In this guest blog, Azar shares his story as part of Scope’s 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

I have cerebral palsy, but you can’t really see it at first. That’s because I’ve been covering it so well – my whole life I’ve been covering up. The more time you spend with me, the more you figure it out.

I knew I wanted to work in business, so after I left college I was looking for a job. I just wanted experience to put on my CV, even just working in a supermarket. I remember a lot of times in my interviews I didn’t want to say that I had a disability, but they would pick up on it because of the way I speak, the way I walk.

Getting knocked back

Azar smiling and look away from the camera
Everything changed for Azar on Scope’s pre-employment programme

I applied to lots and got rejected by all of them. Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Marks and Spencer, Waitrose – the list just goes on, the jobs that I applied for.

I met Vicky from Scope, and she asked me, ‘Anything you want any help with?’ I asked, ‘Can you give me a job?!’ She said she’d try.

And a few weeks later she gave me a call, and she said that there’s this programme, First Impressions, First Experiences. At first I thought, ‘It’s not a job, it’s more of a course, and I won’t be getting paid’.
But then I thought about it. I had a flashback of my previous job interviews – which went well, until I talked about my disability.

Skills for the business world

Because of the course, and the professional mentor I worked with, I’m more confident of just being me without people judging me. You can’t be worried about what other people think.

If anything you’ve got an advantage, because you can say: ‘I‘m at the same place as these people, but I‘ve also got a disability’. It just shows you have an extra strong character. Now I describe my disability as more of a strength than as a weakness.

I use the skills I learnt on the course all the time. For example, speaking in a professional manner – no one’s going to take you seriously if you’re speaking slang.

My dream job is to become a foreign exchange trader. I want to trade in the financial markets. I joined an online trading academy – they gave me a scholarship and now I can go on the course for free.
And after the course, the trainers don’t just say goodbye to you. We’ve been in frequent contact, and it’s something that I’m hoping to carry on.

Pursuing the dreamAzar looking away from the camera

Recently, I had a cup of tea with my mentor, Sean. I had a great relationship with Sean. He’s a trader, and he had this cool charisma.
I think that’s one of the things I learned – working in business there are going to be times where it’s stressful, painful, hard, but in the end it’s the people who stay calm who make it.

Without Scope I don‘t know what I’d be doing now. I’d be jobless, probably at home, playing my X-Box, watching TV. I wouldn’t be where I am today and I wouldn’t be able to explain my disability in a confident manner.

I‘ve just started a business management course at university. I got an access scholarship with help from Scope. I’m also working a part time job, and I’m starting a business with my uncle. I know what I want to be, and I know I can get my dream job.

Azar shared his story as part of our 100 Days, 100 Stories project. If you’re a disabled person or a parent of a disabled child, email us at stories@scope.org.uk to share your story.