A young woman from Somerset who has Down’s syndrome is planning a career in hospitality after support from employment specialists helped her to land her first ever paid job.
Emily Fox, 23, has bagged a job working as a housekeeper for The National Trust near Minehead – and has even scooped an award for her achievements.
Having dreamt of working in the hospitality industry, Emily went to the Foxes Academy for three years to learn the ropes of various roles within the sector.
The Academy, which part of The Aurora Group, is a residential school and training hotel designed to support people with learning disabilities to become more independent and employable. There, Emily picked up vital hospitality abilities like housekeeping, waitressing, and cooking, as well as English and maths skills.
With no previous paid work history, but plenty of volunteering experience, Emily needed some extra support in getting a foot on the career ladder.
Emily enrolled on the Intensive Personalised Employment Support programme delivered by Fedcap Employment, which helps people with disabilities and health conditions overcome their barriers and move closer to employment.
Among others, Emily worked closely with Fedcap Occupational Inclusion Specialist Becky Smith and Community Provisions Coordinator Tracey Oldham.
Tracey said: “Emily came to us right at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, just before the first lockdown. We met in a café, talked about what she wanted to do, and it was clear right from the start she wanted to work – and specifically work in hospitality. Her heart was set on it.
“She knew and understood her capabilities, so it was down to us to help her realise her ambitions. But I think if it wasn’t for the pandemic and the hospitality sector being impacted hugely, she’d have been in work a lot sooner. But she’s flying now and it’s really great to see.”
Becky said: “Emily was extremely dedicated to finding work, and her confidence grew week after week. She progressed massively after each interview we lined up and picked up new skills along the way. It’s been wonderful to see her confidence grow like this.”
With the ongoing support of the Fedcap team, Emily found the perfect job working as a housekeeper in Selworthy with the National Trust, with established support plans and adjustments in place to help her transition into the workplace. She is helped in her daily activities through an innovative checklist which combines words with signs, which has been devised by Somerset Total Communication.
Emily said: “I found interviews quite difficult at first, especially online. But everyone at Fedcap has been amazing.
“I love my new job. I love working in a team and being part of something. The people I work with have been brilliant.
“I love working for the National Trust. The plan is to continue here and see what opportunities come up. I’d love to expand my experience into other areas within hospitality, especially working in a café but for the moment I’m just very happy doing what I’m doing.”
Recently, Emily’s achievements have been recognised at a Fedcap Employment gala event, where she picked up an award for her successes.
Emily’s proud father, William Fox, said: “We’re really happy. It’s not easy finding work. Sometimes it was a real battle for Emily. Some employers just see Emily’s disability but once she’s through the door, people can start to see what she brings.
“It just takes the investment of time to get to know Emily and understand her. The National Trust are a really good employer. It’s vital for us as parents to know that she is working in a safe environment.”