Thomas is a 20-year-old student enjoying the second year of his residential placement on the Retail pathway at Derwen College.

Tom would like to put his friendly and sociable nature to good use and hopes to gain employment at a shop or supermarket when he leaves Derwen. He is learning important skills during work placement in the college’s commercial areas and off-site at a Spar shop in nearby Llanfyllin. He is also proud to have gained confidence and independence skills during his time at college.

Living away from home

Tom recently won the Badge Making Competition at Skills Live @DerwenTom, from London, has a moderate learning disability and Autistic Spectrum Condition. He and his parents felt that Derwen College was the right college for him from their first look around.

“There was lots of space and it was quite big, it felt more like a proper college than other places I visited. The accommodation looked like my brother’s flat at university,” says Tom.

His parents also wanted Tom to enjoy a college experience like his siblings.

“We wanted Tom to have the experience of living away from home and living with other young people, in the same way that our other children did. We felt Derwen offered a full curriculum of meaningful training and social opportunities for Tom. We felt Tom would really enjoy the whole experience. We knew that Tom would not learn and practice essential independence and social skills if he remained supported at home, like all our children he needed to learn this away from home.“

Tom admits he felt anxious when he first started at college but, with support from Student Services, teachers and care staff, he didn’t take long to adjust to his new routine, home and surroundings.

Retail Skills

Tom on work placement at SparOn his Retail pathway, Tom takes part in internal and external work experience and has completed BTEC qualifications in Retail Skills.

He likes to work at Derwen’s Garden Centre shop as a cashier or checking stock and shelves.  However, he says his favourite part of the curriculum is working in the college’s on-site Karten Print Shop. Duties at the Karten include printing marketing material for the college as well as for local businesses. During his work at Karten, Tom has learnt to use the print shop’s industry-standard equipment, and can work efficiently and independently.

Off-site, Tom works at Llanfyllin Spar shop one morning a week. He enjoys the work and being able to interact with customers. His work includes stock-taking, checking dates and keeping things tidy.

He says: “It is good to do work experience to learn to get a job and learn to work in a real workplace.”

Independent living

During his time at college, Tom has developed his confidence and independence skills. He lives in a shared bungalow with two friends and is learning household tasks needed for a more independent future.

He says: “I have learnt to make my bed and keep my room tidy. The staff have helped me learn how to use the washing machine and they are teaching me to cook food. I make myself cups of tea and can make things for my lunch like pasta, eggs or pizza. I put my clothes in the washing machine and I do lots of hoovering and tidying up. I also go the medical centre on my own to see the nurses if I don’t feel well.”

Leisure time

Tom has embraced sports, leisure and wellbeing activities outside his retail curriculum and is working towards his Silver Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

“I love music so really enjoy College Band. I also do Go-Karts and cricket. I really like going on a trip at weekends. I have been canoeing, playing cricket and tried fishing.”

Tom is keen to work in retail when he leaves Derwen.

“I would like to work in Tesco’s and earn my own money,” he says.

Tom’s parents have also seen a change in him since he started at college, and hope that after Derwen, will be able to live as independent a life as possible.

They says: “Tom has certainly increased in confidence and is aware of his right to choose, becoming more decisive in his decision making. Tom is more willing to participate in social situations and keen to be busy doing different things.

“We would like Tom to find some sort of employment, and feel that the regular retail work experience opportunities at Derwen have been valuable in helping Tom understand what is involved and the type of tasks he might be expected to undertake.

“Tom’s experience of living in a supported-style environment in the Bungalows has shown him that he can live more independently and with other people. Derwen offers the balance of independence, community and staff support which has been hugely beneficial and enabled Tom to ‘be himself’.”