Apprenticeship opportunities have enabled students to have a transitional route from the school environment at Heathermount. The framework of the apprenticeship offers a great opportunity for students to have a variety of options in the future.

We have created two apprenticeships in catering and one in horticulture. We are looking at business administration and teaching assistant roles too and are considering how we can offer apprenticeships in other areas of the country.

Steven, 23, has enrolled as an apprentice chef at Heathermount.

The Learner: Steven's Experience

What course are you enrolled on?

I've been on the Hospitality and Catering Professional Cooking Level 2 for 18 months now.

Tell us more about your apprenticeship, what do you do at work and what are you learning?

I have a set routine when I start in the morning at 8.30am. I prepare the work areas and work with staff to get lunch ready for the students and staff. I also assist in the service of meals to the students and deal with their menu queries. Then we begin the clearing up and cleaning of the kitchen area and also work on the theory and team-work element of the apprenticeship.

Why did you want to work in the sector?

I developed an interest in catering during my time as a student at Heathermount; I was a student at Heathermount School. The idea of being involved in an apprenticeship was suggested as a next step. I like the hands-on approach to the apprenticeship. There are now two apprentices in the kitchen, I am the senior apprentice and Thomas is the new apprentice. I enjoy helping Thomas, though I have also been learning new things from him.

How is the apprenticeship helping you learn compared to other types of education?

I am now working as part of The Disabilities Trust and for me that means a lot. While I still receive a lot of support from the Trust, I also have regular meeting with my assessor to identify the areas that I need assistance in or that I still need to work on. This all helps me to develop. I want to be involved in kitchen work. The apprenticeship has given me the opportunity to learn new things and develop my social and independent living skills.

The Experience of the Senior Leadership

Why did you decide to offer this apprenticeship?

Apprenticeship opportunities have enabled Steven to have a transitional route from the school environment at Heathermount. Steven has been the trailblazer for us and as a result of the support mechanisms we have developed for him and seeing how successful Steven has been in his journey to mainstream work, we have created another two apprenticeships in catering and in horticulture.

How is the apprenticeship benefiting your learner as opposed to traditional education methods?

The local college courses would not have provided the structure and support that he needs, while we can. The apprenticeship is part of a package to support Steven move to a position where he is able to make choices instead of others making choices for him.

Since the start of the apprenticeships we have seen a development in Steven's independent living and communication skills. He has adapted very well to the transition from student to employee and the way that the apprenticeship is structured, with on-going assessment and feedback, has really benefited his development.

What skills are your apprentice learning that he will use in the future?

Steven has developed a range of vocational skills through the apprenticeship, but the biggest achievement is what he has identified as the development of his social skills.