When I’m not busy with Evenbreak, I am lucky enough to be a Patron of the Inclusive Skills Competitions. These competitions provide an opportunity for young people with learning disabilities and difficulties to showcase their skills, and they celebrate that talent can be found in everyone.
Last week I went to see two competitions being held at South Thames College in South London. The first was in catering. Competitors had to prepare and present a range of items for afternoon tea. They were marked on a range of skills including hygiene, safety, presentation and others.
Competitors were supplied with all the necessary ingredients and equipment, and were given 90 minutes to complete the task. I was impressed with the organisational skills they displayed, the amount of focus on the details, and also the attention paid to cleanliness and safety.
Every competitor received a certificate for completing the task, and as it was a competition, three were given first, second and third place. However, in my view, every competitor was a winner, and if I were to go for afternoon tea at a high end hotel (not something I do on a regular basis, to be fair!), I would be thrilled to be presented with any of the entries.
The second competition, also on the theme of hospitality, was on laying a table – not as straightforward as it might seem! The theme for the competition was to lay a table for two with a “Great Gatsby” theme. Competitors were again judged against a variety of criteria, including attention to detail (polishing the cutlery correctly, placing the right items in the right place) and artistic presentation, complete with table decorations.
Again, the competitors were impressive, following a protocol and paying great attention to detail. I would be delighted to eat in a restaurant where the tables were laid out so beautifully.
The young people who enter these competitions have much to offer the right employers. With good training and the right support, they are highly motivated to produce their best work. The young people I met at these competitions would thrive in roles which have a routine to follow in settings such as cafes, hotels, and so on. However, this is not a pool of talent that many employers are even aware of.
For employers who would like to see young people showcase their talent, a number of national finals of the Inclusive Skills Competitions will be held at the Skills Show in Birmingham in November. It would be great to see you there!
In the meantime, you may want to consider employing, or offering work experience to our young people. Have a look at some stories of how students and their employers have benefitted.
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