Caitlin Ireland recently told us about the fantastic support she has received while undertaking work experience with Emma Clarke and her team at Signature Flowers in Bicester.
Caitlin said: “Having done some flower arranging on college visits with LVS Oxford, I spoke to my family and my dad suggested Signature Flowers as a possibility for work experience. My tutor at school approached Emma and to my delight she agreed to me joining her and her staff once a week. For young people with autism, especially girls who tend to mask their anxieties, a block of work experience in a new environment can be too overwhelming so employers who can be flexible make work experience possible for young people like myself.”
“I am really loving my time in the shop with Emma and the other members of staff. I’ve been helping to condition the flowers when they come in, speaking to customers, and have recently starting helping with table centres, such as some festive ones for the Kings Arms in Bicester. After my first shift in the shop, my dad commented that I was the most smiley he had ever seen me!”
Emma Clarke, who opened Signature Flowers three years ago, adds, “Caitlin has been a big help in the shop during our busy build up to Christmas. In January, we are hoping that she will be able to increase her hours so that she is with us for the whole day. We will also help her to gain more experience in arranging flowers in oasis, along with working on the till and serving customers.”
“As a small business owner, I think it is really important to help the next generation gain skills for their working lives. Working with Caitlin is also helping myself and my staff to understand the needs of people with autism better, which I think is important for all businesses and society as a whole.”
Louisa Allison-Bergin, Head of LVS Oxford, commented, “Providing our pupils with first-hand experience of the workplace is vitally important as we work with them to identify their chosen career paths and help them to prepare for adulthood. Unfortunately, the employment statistics for adults with autism are currently much lower than they should be and, as a centre of excellent for autism, LVS Oxford is committed to helping pupils find fulfilling employment or further education opportunities for when they leave school.”
“Employers being flexible about the logistics of work experience, such as once a week over several months instead of a week or two week block, is extremely helpful. As are employers like Emma who are open to learning about small adjustments in the workplace that can make the difference between an overwhelmed, stressed employee and one that is happy and coping.”