Adult Employment Programme – Entry 5

My last update came to you near the end of my course back in 2011. 8 months on and I’m still enjoying the positive effects of the College.

After leaving the College and returning back to Cumbria I attended the last of my work placements which was with a huge company based I my local area. I got on great with the team and was really enjoying being back in work. During my time here I tried my best to impress my colleagues and show them what I was capable of. I also made a lot of contacts within the business and one of these was the company’s Employment Advisor. We got talking about my situation and through this contact, and with the positive references I have received, I was able to turn this 2 week work placements into a 6 month, paid position through the RNIB Transitional Employment Scheme.

Once the scheme had been set up I was able to start a new position in the company’s transportation department. This takes advantage of my past experience as I used to be an international lorry driver. The work also has similar elements to my placement back in Loughborough, so I’m confident with the job role. I am now 5 weeks in to my TES and so far I love every second. The work I’m doing is real and is making a difference to the company.

My main duties include, file management using excel, building up an electronic database and managing my own project. They are definitely keeping me busy and it’s all good experience. All the equipment I need including JAWs, a high visibility keypad and a scanner has all been provided and I even have my own office!

The best part so far has been receiving my first pay check in such a long time. It was a great feeling and I took my wife out for dinner to celebrate.

The next challenge for me will be to turn this 6 month scheme into a permanent job. The contacts I have made within this company have been great and the experience will help me if a job does become available. I have had good feedback from colleagues and I already feel like part of the team.

I would just like to say how much the College’s Transitional Employment Scheme really works. It gives people the chance to get that first ‘toe-in-the-door’. Once in, it’s down to them to build up relationships and to prove that they can do the job to the employer. The TES helps to break down the barriers to employment for disabled people. The College can help to set this scheme up but at the end of the day it’s down to the individual to make a positive impression and contribute to the work force.

Adult Employment Programme – Entry 4

I’m coming to the end of my programme at RNIB College Loughborough and so the next few weeks will be very busy for me. On Friday I am travelling to my home area for a job interview which has been arranged by the employment team! The interview is for a 2 week placement working in another company’s transport department. This means that the skills I’ve learnt over the past few months at my placement in Loughborough will come in very useful. It is also important to make contacts within your home area and getting your foot in the door can be a good first step.

Back in Loughborough my work placement is still going well and from what they have said to me they are really happy with the work that I have been producing. They are even writing an article for the local newspaper about how well the placement has worked for them. Best of all is the fact that they have said they are happy to give me a great reference to support any future job applications! So by the time I get to an interview I will hopefully have two successful work placements with good professional references and new qualifications to show on my CV.

My work within the college is still going well and I got a surprise when I passed the Outlook module with 100%! I couldn’t believe it, not a single mistake! To me that can only be a reflection of the quality of teaching at the College. As you will know if you have read earlier entries in this blog, I struggled switching a computer on 6 months ago and now I’m passing exams with top marks. I have one more module to complete and then I will have achieved my ITQ.

As well as finding employment my programme has also been preparing me for the eventual loss of my sight. I consider my time here as a period of transition, learning the skills to carry on doing the things I enjoy when my sight has gone. Now that the dark nights have arrived I suffer from Night Blindness so I have been doing some mobility sessions using a long cane which will help me.

My attitude towards the future has changed an awful lot since coming here. I now have a much more positive outlook and I am a lot more confident about doing the things I want to do. It’s even been noticed at home. I’ve enjoyed everything about being here, the only low point is missing my family but at least this gave me the time to focus on my end goal. The highlight of the programme has been my results! I’ve never considered myself an academic person but it shows what you can achieve with the right help and support. I’ve met some really inspirational people and I can say that I’m now confident about finding employment after I leave. It’s not if I get a job, but when I get a job!

Adult Employment Programme – Entry 3

I am now in the fourth month of my course at the RNIB College. The first thing I’d like to tell you about is my work placement. I started my placement with a local company in their transport office a few weeks ago and I am now attending two days a week.  The best thing about it is that I know this is a real company with real work that needs doing.

At my placement I have been given my own project to work on that will help the company to identify the efficiency of its drivers. It involves a large amount of IT and the work has to be accurate and meet very high standards. It feels good that I am trusted to work on things that are important to the company.

My work placement is a great way to practice the skills that I have learnt but I am also still learning new things as I go along. Only last week I was asked by my placement to use ‘conditional formatting’ in Excel. I was unsure how to do this and so I asked my College tutor for help. We had a one-to-one lesson and I am now confident to go back to my placement knowing what to do. This just goes to show how tailored the programme is. No matter what your level or pace, the tutors will help you to learn the things you need to succeed. If in doubt all you have to do is look my exam results. After achieving 98% in my last CLAiT Module which focused on Microsoft Word, I have now received a score of 97% for Excel and passed my level 1 Maths.

After I have finished my placement, a copy of the project that I have worked on will be given to me to demonstrate my skills to prospective employers. This will be a great way to back up my CV.

In Job Club sessions I am working up to a mock interview. The idea is that you go through the whole process of applying for a job and then the College invites local businesses to come in and conduct the interview. Every part of the application will be analysed and your interview techniques will be assessed. There are 4 jobs to choose from and I have just begun the research to decide which one I will apply for. Then I will have to write a covering letter, complete the application form demonstrating how I meet the essential criteria and attend the interview.

This will be the second time that I have been in a formal interview situation and so I will be interested to see how I get on and I will also appreciate the feedback. I feel quite nervous but in this environment it’s about learning how you can improve which will help me out when it comes to the real thing.

Over the time that I have been at the College I have missed my wife and kids very much but then I know that I have to put things into perspective. The 6 months I’m here will ultimately help me to carve out a better future for my family. I talk to my wife on the phone every night and we even Skype call at weekends. Plus the support I receive here from staff and peers has helped no end. The people I live with have become like a little family, we look out for each other and support each other.

To find out more about the adult employment programme please click here http://bit.ly/ezjf1U

Adult Employment Programme – Entry 2

I have been here at RNIB College Loughborough for just over two months now and I’m glad to say that I’m still really enjoying it. One of the best bits of news is that I have started my work placement with a local company in their transport office. As my background comes from the transport industry I was very keen to use my experience in this field to help me progress.

 The placement began with an interview. I have never been to a formal interview before and so I was very nervous, but it was definitely a good experience for me. I asked for feedback at the end and found the comments very useful; it was a real confidence boost.

 It’s early days but I know that one of my main duties will include working with Excel. I have been practising this in College and so it’s great to put it into practice. My placement will last for two days a week up until the end of my course. Then I can update my CV with relevant work experience and my goal now is to work at a transport company in my local area. I feel that this placement is a huge step in the right direction for me.

 The rest of my course is also coming along well. I have carried on with my Braille lessons and have now learnt 10 letters. My tutor and I play cards in Braille. This makes it fun and I always leave that room knowing that I have learnt something.

 I have increased the amount of time spent studying IT. I feel like this is an area that I want to work on. I have just used JAWS to complete one of my CLAiT Modules and I passed with 98%. Considering that I had trouble turning a computer on two months ago, I am over the moon with this result.

 I am now beginning to get more involved within the College itself. I have been elected as Student Representative for the adult trainees. This involves me attend a meeting once a month to communicate and resolve any issues regarding the trainees. I have also started to get involved with the formal visit days that run at the College. I was nervous about coming here when I first started and so it’s good to be able to talk to people who are going through the same thing and to offer some reassurance. Moving away from home can be a daunting prospect but it really is worth it to gain back some independence and to learn things you never thought you would be able to.

Adult Employment Programme – Entry 1

29 June 2011

My name is Duncan Rothery. I have just started a course at RNIB College Loughborough because I have recently been diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition known as Macular Degeneration. At present I am completely blind in my left eye and my right eye is beginning to fade. I have come to the College to learn as much as I possible can to help me get back into work and keep my independence.

 The day the Doctor told me that I would eventually lose my sight was one of the worst moments of my life. There was the initial shock of it but then I started to worry about how I could continue to support my family. For the past 25 years I have worked as an international lorry driver, but obviously as my sight began to worsen my driving license was taken away. To this day I firmly believe that one of the best phone calls I ever made was to Action for Blind. They gave me lots of advice and helped me to contact my Disability Employment Advisor. She was the person who told me about RNIB College Loughborough.

 The application process began with an assessment where I came to the College for a day to meet with the tutors. I have to admit that I was very nervous, I can get quite anxious around strangers but in very short space of time the staff had made me feel so welcome. I was accepted on a course for the Adult Employment Programme and was able to start just 3 weeks later.

 Initially, leaving home was a bit of a struggle. I live a long way away and so can only travel back once a month. I miss my wife and kids a lot but I know that this is something I have to do. Whilst at the College I live in the Halls of Residence. I think that living on my own can be a good thing because it means that I have the time to dedicate to my studies.

 My first week was mainly spent settling in, meeting lots of people and getting used to my timetable. The course is quite intense as its 9.00 till 5.00 Monday to Friday. My timetable is made up of 5 main areas. These include Braille, ICT, Mobility, Work Experience, Job club, and Independent Living Skills. By the end of my first week I knew I had made the right decision coming here.

 I feel I have come a very long way in a very short space of time. In my IT lessons I have already completed a touch typing course and learnt how to use keyboard short cuts to navigate around the screen without a mouse. My tutor is extremely patient and helpful; he is able to tailor everything to the individual, which makes the course very personal.  I have also been improving my JAWs skills and am now working towards a ClAiT Qualification.

 I go out once a week into the local area with a tutor who helps me with mobility. There are lots of things you need to know about getting around outside such as tactile paving and revolving cones at pedestrian crossings. All these things are helping me to get around independently which is a huge part of why I am here. I spend one morning a week learning independent living skills which includes learning how to cook. I find all these things very important and I feel more confident already.

 The thing that I am most proud of so far is that I have managed to learn 7 letters in Braille and I am beginning to use those letters to make words and short sentences. Before coming here a month ago Braille meant nothing to me, I thought it would be too hard to learn in such a short space of time. Now it’s so exciting and I can’t wait to learn more.

 One day a week is spent in the College Office. This is a learning environment that uses the colleges’ real office as a place for me to practice some of the skills I have learnt in my sessions. For example the morning might include sending internal emails, which involves Jaws and practicing using the keyboard. The days in the college office are so busy but really interesting.

 As I mentioned I have spent my last 25 years working as a lorry driver. As this is no longer an option I have been attending weekly sessions of Job Club. In these sessions we have support in researching possible jobs, help with CV building, Mock interviews with valuable feed back, industry speakers and site visits. The sessions are designed to help me decide which direction I want to go in. At the moment I am thinking about using the transferable skills I’ve gained in the transport industry to go into logistics however whilst I’m learning all these new things I am very open minded and might even try something completely new. You’ll have to watch this space.

 The thought of coming back into a learning environment was hard but I honestly feel that over the last month I’ve learnt so much and made lasting friendships. This course is preparing me for the total loss of my sight and so I am eager to learn as much as I can while I’m here. The tutors have been a real inspiration to me. My Braille teacher and Jaws teacher are both blind themselves and they are proof that you can go on to achieve great things after sight loss. Its good to be around people that can support you and really understand what you’re going through, both staff and peers.

To find out more about the adult employment programme please click here http://bit.ly/ezjf1U