The John Lewis Experience

Paula Brown,  Family Officer South Wales

Paula Brown, Family Officer South Wales

Deaf children and young people in Wales repeatedly tell us that deaf awareness is simply not good enough – in schools, leisure activities, NHS, public transport and shops. That’s why NDCS Cymru as a team has made raising deaf awareness a key objective, in terms of campaigns activity and also Family Officer outreach.

Here’s an example of one such initiative where NDCS Cymru (in partnership with John Lewis, Cardiff) facilitated a supportive, meaningful work experience for deaf young people, and hopefully ensured an enhanced shopping experience for deaf children, young people and the wider deaf community going forward.

From small acorns…
Who would have thought that a chance meeting, three years ago, between NDCS Cymru staff and a speech and language therapy student, who was working part time in John Lewis, would have led to work experience placements for deaf young people in the Cardiff store? Well it did and it’s been fantastic

Whoever said ‘fair exchange is no robbery’ was on to something. In the first year of our relationship with John Lewis my fellow family officer, Jamie Rhys-Martin, and I just provided the deaf awareness training. It went so well they asked for more! But we wanted something out of it as well and that’s when the deal was struck. Jamie and I provide the deaf awareness training to their staff (partners) once a year and a group of deaf young people get work experience placements in return.

Here are the best bits……so far!
• New opportunities for deaf young people that they would not have had otherwise – and real experience for them and John Lewis partners, putting theory into practice.

• Friendly and welcoming partners who want the deaf students to feel included and benefit from their work experience week.

• Behind the scenes tours of John Lewis and seeing the inner workings of the store which is a world away from the pristine store that shoppers see.

• Mind your BOPS, don’t confuse your FFF and FFs, watch for the WINS and get your fill in the PDR – a lot of confusing acronyms!

• Cheap and tasty eats in the HIGHLY subsidised PDR (Partners Dining Room). It was impossible to spend £10 between 3 of us in one day and that was eating and drinking as much as we possibly could at every opportunity. If you knew Jamie ‘hollow legs’ Rhys-Martin you’d know how hard that is to believe but it’s true!!!!

What did the deaf students & parents think…
• “Really good to see how retail works, the kind of money they take and the people there. I think working for them is a much better choice that most other retailers tbh. Tuesday I was on EHT, Wednesday on Tech and Audio, Thursday on Lighting and Seasonal and Friday they moved me back to Audio and TV. Was also surprised how much I was “allowed” to do apart from the case, I could take the sale, check if it was in stock, do print-outs, advise etc. So yeah, very pleasing!”

• “The best thing was to be able to experience what it is really like to work on a shop floor dealing with customers, also making friends and learning about different products.”

• “Thank you Paula & Jamie! A…had a fab week in JL. He says he’s thinking about the JL apprenticeship after his A levels! Who knows, but it was a great experience for him.”

• Hi Paula I had a fantastic time in John Lewis I enjoyed everything I did but the best thing was using the till and helping the customers. I also met some new friends and have a good experience of working in the store. I would love to work there:-)”

• “Yeah it’s good, so happy”

We’re very grateful to John Lewis for the giving the deaf young people of south Wales such a brilliant opportunity. John Lewis has demonstrated in a practical way that being deaf is not a barrier in their workplace. Hopefully other companies will follow suit.

So here’s to 2015 and the next batch of deaf work experience recruits!

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One thought on “The John Lewis Experience

  1. Pingback: Work Experience | Sign Hi Say Hi!

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