A budding young horticulturist is seeking a garden centre to offer a weekly work placement which could help shape his future.

Green-fingered Oliver Burrows, from Shrewsbury, has started a supported internship in Horticulture at Derwen College, and needs relevant work placements to further hone his skills.

Oliver, aged 20, has autism spectrum condition and cerebral palsy, and uses a specially-adapted all-terrain wheelchair. He was a Horticulture student at Gobowen-based specialist college Derwen College for three years, and has now progressed to a supported internship to develop his work and independence skills.

Oliver’s goal has always been to work in a garden centre, and he is determined to find a weekly placement at a business which is willing to back him in his aspirations.

Derwen College supported interns attend work placements with a dedicated job coach. Support is gradually reduced as they become more confident in their work.

Oliver’s current work placements include one day a week at Horatio’s Garden Midland Centre for Spinal Injury (MCSI) at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital (RJAH). He also works in ground maintenance at Oswestry Cemetery.

Oliver says: “I am enjoying my supported internship, which is helping me to get more independent and to get a job at the end of it.

“I would like to work in a garden centre and do customer service. I’m a social person and like working in the garden centre. I like working inside and out and can already use a till. I’m happy to work in all weathers and like the changing seasons. I volunteer at Horatio’s Garden every Wednesday where I’ve done planting up and weeding, and at Oswestry Cemetery on Thursdays. As I learn skills, I can work more independently. At the Cemetery I can be left on my own now. I do groundwork, trimming trees and weeding.”

Oliver is hardworking, works well in a team and is willing to give most jobs a go.

“I’m sociable, helpful and like to do a bit of everything,” he says. “If people meet me and see what I can do, I think that will help get a work placement.”

Derwen College work experience team support students and interns to find regular weekly placements, and are always pleased to hear from businesses in Horticulture, Hospitality, Retail and Performing Arts or related sectors.

Just a few hours a week in a work environment provides vital experience for students, which helps them towards employment and a more independent future. Students are supported at all times during their placements by a Derwen College job coach and can be a real asset to a business. As the intern becomes more confident, support will be gradually reduced

Work experience co-ordinator Abi Baker said:

‘Only 6% of young people with learning difficulties go into work, which is an incredibly disappointing statistic. Derwen College’s mission is to create opportunities for young people who may have special educational needs, but have proved they are able and willing to work. This enables them to enjoy job satisfaction and also to live more independent lives.

“Our external work placement programme offers life changing opportunities for our interns and students to undertake meaningful, real work experience which is relevant to their learning and future career hopes.

“Businesses that we work with also find it a rewarding thing to do. Offering work placements to a person with a learning difficulty promotes diversity and boosts a company’s reputation for being community-minded and inclusive.”

To find out more about how you could help change the future prospects of a young person like Oliver, please contact Abi Baker on abi.baker@derwen.ac.uk

Pictured: Oliver Burrows.