Route2work College Learners L-R: Arron Middleton, Liam Brinkworth, and Lewis McConnachie.

Learners who attend Route2Work Special Educational Needs (SEN) College in South Tyneside, are gaining valuable skills and life experience thanks to a new work placement scheme developed in partnership with South Tyneside Council and grounds maintenance provider, Tivoli Group Ltd.

The local initiative aims to give young people with SEN the chance to gain hands-on work experience undertaking grounds maintenance jobs across the Borough. Tivoli have offered placements to a number of Route2Work College students to engage in green space maintenance and carry out land improvements, with support from South Tyneside Council by way of student supervision and training.

This exciting new partnership offers Route2Work College students meaningful work experience and provides a dedicated pathway for students to step confidently into further education, work placement or other opportunities that may lead to living more purposeful lives.

On February 1st 2024, Route2Work College students Lewis McConnachie, Arron Middleton and Liam Brinkworth, started work with Tivoli and South Tyneside Council at various sites across the Borough, including Foxton Court, Cleadon Park and Tyne Dock carrying out tasks such as landscaping and planting. The students are set to work one day a week alongside Tivoli grounds maintenance teams and will be supported by Groundwork Team workers to gain additional training and develop skills.

Route2Work College provides learning to over 40 Post 16 SEN students, all of whom have individual learning needs. Part of the college learning programme involves carrying out work experience placements within the local business community. The partnership is calling on other local businesses to play a pivotal role in the lives of these young people, by helping them develop the skills, knowledge and experience to confidently take their next steps into further education or employment.

Route2Work SEN College offers a unique learning approach for students to grow and achieve skills and qualifications in a wide range of subjects. Students undertake foundation qualifications in Maths and English alongside practical studies in:- Land Based Studies,  Animal Care at Jarrow Hall Anglo-Saxon Farm, Customer Service which includes running a weekly drop-in café at the College Campus based at the Eco Centre in Hebburn.

Rachel Kitson, Head of Route2Work SEN College, said:

“work experience is such an important aspect of our learning programme as it equips our young people with really important skills and experience.  It is very hard to engage with employers in terms of asking for work placements and we are so grateful to Tivoli for providing our learners with an amazing opportunity”. 

Andrew Watts, who has held the position of CEO at Groundwork South and North Tyneside for over 10 years and has been instrumental in establishing Route2Work SEN College, said:

“We are delighted with the new partnership and the opportunities this brings for our learners. One of our main delivery areas is Raising Aspirations and Improving Prospects, as we face a climate crisis there is an economic and moral imperative to think about how we make the transition to a green economy more inclusive. This project delivers meaningful work experience. We would like to see more career inspiration and role models for underrepresented job seekers, like those being created by the Tivoli and South Tyneside Council partnership and we would like to see more accessible pathways into green careers across a variety of sectors for underrepresented job seekers. It is fantastic that this vision is being shared”. 

Matthew Rennison, Regional Manager for Tivoli, said:

“Tivoli is very proud to be supporting this scheme to increase training, work experience and employment opportunities for people with SEN. We are keen to encourage young people to learn the skills and have a career that contributes to preserving or restoring the environment and our planet, and our aim is to build a legacy for future generations by transforming the UK’s landscapes into safe, functional and beautiful spaces. We always consider how our services can improve the social and environmental wellbeing of the communities we serve and are committed to providing a clear and accessible pathway into green careers that is open to everyone. We would urge other companies to support SEN students in the workplace, as it will have a truly positive and beneficial impact for all employers, regardless of size, sector or location.”

South Tyneside Council is fully on board with this new venture and aims to offer work experience placements to Route2Work SEN College students well into the future.

Councillor Jane Carter, Lead Member for Education and Skills at South Tyneside Council, said:

“We are delighted to be supporting the young people with their work placements. We want all our residents to be connected to jobs, skills and learning.

 “Placements like this will help the students to gain valuable hands-on work experience that will help to unlock training, learning and employment opportunities in the future. They also enable our young people to build confidence and develop key skills and knowledge that they can carry throughout their life. This partnership is extremely important for helping young people who have additional needs to feel confident and connected in life and in work.”

Route2Work College student, Arron Middleton, is one of three initiates picked to participate in the local SEN work experience scheme with South Tyneside Council and Tivoli. Fellow students Liam Brinkworth and Lewis McConnachie are joining Arron on this exciting and rewarding journey.

Arron said:

“This work placement has made me realise what type of job I want to do in the future, which is land maintenance. I enjoy working as part of a team and learning new skills. I’m learning skills that will help me progress into the career I want”.

Liam said:

I enjoy hands-on practical work and working with new people. This is a challenge and is helping me to come out of my comfort zone and gain skills to help my future career.

To get involved with the partnership and support Post 16 SEN students with long or short term work experience placements, please get in touch with Rachel Kitson, Head of Route2Work SEN College.