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Ready Devon

Meet Nicole—The Special Olympics Bronze medal winner dreaming of a real job

Forget what you think you know about learning difficulties

Meet Nicole Summers. There’s a lot more to Nicole than meets the eye. She’s a big sports fan. She goes swimming two or three times a week and enjoys horse riding too. In fact, she recently qualified for a dressage competition at Weston Park.

One of her most proud moments though, was when she skied in America for the Special Olympics and won a Bronze medal for England. We’re betting there aren’t many people that can claim that kind of achievement.

Did you know?

  • 77% of the public think more highly of companies that make an extra effort to employ people with a disability.

    Source: Mencap Factsheet 1—Charity Awareness Monitor, September 2004
  • People with a learning disability stayed in their job 3.5 times longer than their non-disabled co-workers.

    Source: Mencap 'Good for Business' - Beyer and Beyer 2017
  • 83% of people acquire their disability while in the work place.

    Source: Disability Confident

When experience doesn’t pay

Like many others out there, Nicole doesn’t let her learning disabilities hold her back. Alongside her sporting achievements, she’s gained three NVQs in Administration and has 11 years of experience as a volunteer manager for Devon People First.

Devon People First is an organisation run by people with learning disabilities to help them speak up for themselves and Nicole works there Monday to Friday from 10am – 3pm. She loves her role and working with her team, the only downside for her is that it’s entirely voluntary.

Dreaming of a real job

That’s not to say she doesn’t aspire for more. In an ideal world, she wants to be in a paid job in administration. And with NVQ levels 1, 2 and 3 in Admin and her voluntary experience, she’s more than qualified. We asked her how it would make her feel to be able to earn money:

“It would give me independence and pride in myself. It would mean that I’d earn my own money and I wouldn’t have to rely on benefits anymore.”

What’s holding people back?

Nicole believes the main issue is lack of support from employers. She wishes that employers would be more understanding of people with learning disabilities and the experience they can offer. She’s a friendly, considerate person and just wants to be treated in the same way by others.

“I’ve encountered a lot of rudeness over the time I’ve been working. I think just being friendly would be a start. I think people with disabilities have different experiences and understand people, they also work hard and are really loyal.”

Right now, thousands of people across Devon are being overlooked for jobs because of mental health conditions, learning disabilities and autism. Many of them are already qualified and ready to work, like Nicole. And it benefits employers to be looking further afield than their usual limited talent pool. By expanding your recruitment process to provide opportunities for people with disabilities you’ll be able to choose from a much wider range of candidates, all of whom will bring skills and experience you might not necessarily find elsewhere.

How can employers like you, help people like Nicole?

It’s actually much easier than you think to start making a difference. Ask to be contacted by a Jobcentre Plus local Employer Advisor. They can help you understand what’s involved and support you with any training or advice you might need.