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Glasgow Man Discovers Learning Difficulties No Barrier To Achievement With

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

A young man from Glasgow has made the most of a Marks & Spencer and DisabledGo initiative to help people with disabilities get into work.


Garry Roach, 19, from Knightswood, suffers from learning difficulties and had struggled to persuade prospective employers to give him a chance. However he has now met the challenges of a new job and is looking forward to a bright future thanks to Marks & Spencer's flagship community programme, Marks & Start.


Now in its sixth year, the innovative Marks & Start initiative aims to provide better access to employment for lone parents, homeless, disabled and young unemployed people. After a three-day work preparation course tailored specifically for those who have been out of work for an extended period of time, M&S provides participants with a specially designed work experience placement, to help them rebuild confidence and develop new skills for life and work.


Garry embarked on the Marks & Start programme in May 2009 at M&S in Glasgow Pollok.  "I have a learning disability which means I need a bit more support. After leaving college I became disheartened by some employers' attitudes to learning disabilities to the point where I was really struggling to get motivated to look for work. Marks & Start came at just the right time to give me that boost. 


"I worked in Menswear and Foods and it was great to be able to do the placement and gain experience.  I really appreciated being given the chance to prove to an employer that I could learn and do a job.


"My placement lasted for four weeks and throughout that time I was assigned my own 'buddy' who was great, really supportive and helpful.  He was very patient with me and helped me to learn new tasks. The rest of the staff are really friendly, it's a great place to work - it's like a family here.


 "Now I work in the Bishopbriggs M&S store as a Customer Assistant. I love talking to the customers and helping them. Marks & Start was a great experience.  It really helped to build my confidence and self-esteem.  I really appreciate being given the opportunity. 


"I feel so much better now being able to get out not just to work, but to socialise as well.  I'm only 19 so I'm still young but I know I want to continue working for Marks and Spencer."


Stephen Smith, manager at M&S in Bishopbriggs, said: "It's an honour to support Gary as his confidence and abilities increase. He is already an integral part of our team and his enthusiasm for great customer service is really inspiring. Since Marks & Start began in 2004, the scheme has helped to improve the lives of over 2,500 people by offering them practical work placements in our stores and offices. At M&S we recognise that there are a huge number of people across Scotland who, with a little encouragement and support, can make an invaluable contribution."


Dr Gregory Burke, Chief Executive of DisabledGo commented, "DisabledGo breaks down barriers which people with disabilities face when trying to access leisure, education, employment and services in their community. We are delighted to work in partnership with M&S to deliver the Marks & Start programme to disabled people. DisbaledGo develops through constant feedback from disabled people and the feedback from work experience placements has been almost invariably positive. Between April 2009 and March 2010 alone, there have been 150 work experience placements on offer to disabled people."


For further information on Marks & Start please visit: http://corporate.marksandspencer.com/howwedobusiness/our_policies/funding/marks_start


Notes to editors

  • Marks & Start was launched in February 2004.
  • Since 2004, the programme, which is the biggest of its kind in the UK, has changed the lives of over 2,500 adults by offering work experience placements of two to four weeks to people who face barriers in gaining employment including homeless, disabled, parents returning to work and young unemployed people.  
  • We partner with a number of charities to deliver Marks & Start - One Parent Families|Gingerbread (Lone Parents Returning to Work programme), Business Action on Homelessness (Homeless programme), The Prince's Trust (for the Young Employed programme) and DisabledGo (People with Disabilities programme).
  • Approximately 40% of those who finish the placement find work with us or another employer and 75% of those are still in work after 6 months.