Determined not to be held back by autism and anxiety, 19-year-old Josh Southgate from Worlingham has realised a huge personal ambition by landing a job at the Tesco superstore in Beccles. This represents the culmination of a remarkable 3-year journey for Josh, supported by his grandparents, City College Norwich and Leading Lives.
'Outstanding' Supported Learning helped Josh
When he first came to City College Norwich, aged 16, Josh struggled with severe anxiety and autism, which meant he found it difficult to be in a classroom environment. In fact, he often found this too much to deal with and would simply walk out of the classroom.
Staff at the college – which is rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted for its Supported Learning provision – felt that Josh needed a different learning environment. So Josh was given the chance to join the Horticulture Enterprise course, which sees students develop their employability skills in the college’s greenhouses, as well as planting flowers for Norwich in Bloom at locations across the city.
This more active form of learning and work experience gave Josh the opportunity to keep active and busy, which he found helpful for managing his anxiety. Described by his teachers as kind, considerate and hardworking, Josh often volunteered to do extra jobs during his lunch break, such as taking the rubbish out, cleaning the minibus and shopping for the group.
The course also enabled Josh to broaden his experience and develop new skills through work placements at Somerleyton Hall, Blickling Hall, White House Farm in Sprowston, and the YMCA Stepping Stones Café in Norwich.
Driven by his determination to overcome his barriers and gain employment, and to achieve greater independence in his life, a major transformation unfolded in Josh. This was formally recognised in September 2015, when Josh was presented with one of the college’s Further Education Awards. Josh gave a memorable and moving speech at the awards ceremony that evening, during which he said:
“I feel happy now and I have got so much to look forward to. I have started to realise that I do have a future and that being autistic will not stop me having a good life. I want to have fun and make new friends. One day I want to have a job and live on my own in supported living. City College has made me think I can have all of these things.”
Complementing his progress at college, Josh was given further support from Suffolk-based Social Enterprise Leading Lives. Leading Lives arranged work experience in the sensory garden of its Hub in Lowestoft, and for Josh to go on a drama course with the Fabba Theatre in Lowestoft.
Last November, Sandra Trimmer from Leading Lives set up work experience for Josh at his local Tesco, in Beccles, where he helped replenish stock on the shelves of this busy superstore. Josh thrived in the role and has waited patiently for a paid position to arise at the store that he could apply for. This opportunity came in July and, after going through the standard competitive interview and selection process, Josh was elated to have been successful in securing the part-time job.
Josh Southgate said: “I was really happy when I was told I had got the job. Who would have thought, 4 years ago, that I would have got a job and got to where I am now? I’m just really proud. I just want to say thank you to my grandparents for how well I’ve done. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today, they have made such a big difference to me.”
Praise for Josh's progress and achievements
Amanda Bushall, People Manager, Tesco Beccles, said: "Josh's confidence has grown beyond measure since he joined us here at Tesco Beccles and it is wonderful to have been able to offer him his first position."
Adrian Deniss, Fresh Food Lead Manager, Tesco Beccles, said: "Josh has adapted really well into his role at Tesco. He is a valued member of our team and has made many friends in store since he started his employment here. We are really pleased to have him working with us at Tesco Beccles."
Sandra Trimmer, Progression Worker, Leading Lives, said: “Josh has gained a huge amount of confidence from the experiences and support provided by City College Norwich and Leading Lives. The willingness of Tesco’s People Manager, Amanda Bushell, to offer an invaluable work experience opportunity was also crucial. Josh has progressed very quickly, is very enthusiastic and has an amazing work ethic. Getting this job is a huge milestone for Josh as he moves towards greater independence and empowerment. We are all thrilled for him.”
Sarah Softley, Job Coach, City College Norwich, added: “Josh has developed an awful lot during his time at college, improving his confidence, work skills and all round self-esteem. You couldn’t find a more willing worker. He is kind and considerate and offers to help other students who are struggling. He has been very focused on getting a job and will be a real asset to his new employer.”