From a life of X-box and TV to Oxford University in six months – read Luke’s story

This time last year 21-year-old Luke Parsons had little experience of the world of work and there was a chance he and his family would be uprooted from their Kidlington home and perhaps even be left without accommodation.

Twelve months on Luke is working for one of the most famous academic institutions in the world and his outlook is bright thanks to the efforts of Oxfordshire County Council’s Employment Service and his new colleagues.

Luke has Aspergers which is part of the Autistic Spectrum and had struggled to find work during his adult life – indeed he says himself that his life was largely centred around his home and immediate family, the television and his X-box.

Oxfordshire Employment – part of the County Council – is an established organisation with an excellent track record in helping people with health or disability issues to get and keep paid employment. They started to work with Luke to take his life down a different route.

Initially Luke’s placement was in a school kitchen part of Oxfordshire Supported Internships, working in partnership with Activate learning and Mencap. Oxfordshire Employment facilitated this placement- and this laid down the foundations for his journey into fully paid employment

Since September 2017 Luke has been working in the kitchens at Pembroke College – part of Oxford University, this is the College where JRR Tolkien was a Fellow, Sir Roger Bannister was the Master, and Michael Heseltine was a student.

“I didn’t speak much before but I do now – we all get along at work and we have a great laugh. I must admit I’d never heard of Pembroke College before I came to work here. The staff are all friendly and help me a lot. It’s a great place,” said Luke

“Before I came to work here I’d spend a lot of time at home sitting watching TV or on my X-box. Now I feel much more independent and confident. I work shifts. Sometimes it can be 8am to 4pm, other times 12noon until 9pm or 2pm to 10pm.

“At first when I was on a late shift my mum was worried when I came home late but a taxi is arranged for me now, if my shifts overrun or are very late. I am enjoying my work and I know my mum and family are proud of me.”

Committed and valued

Kevin Dudley, Pembroke College’s Head of Catering, said: “Luke is a committed and valued member of our team. Having worked with Luke, and Oxfordshire Employment, to help him settle in to our kitchen we are delighted with the contribution which he now makes.”

Broadened horizons

Gary Peacock Luke’s Employment Advisor, from Oxfordshire Employment works closely with Luke and Pembroke College. He said: “The natural support that the staff at Pembroke College put in, is evident by how well Luke is doing in his employment.

“Like anybody in a new job it took a long time for Luke to get used to his new surroundings and routines, we have ironed out some initial problems, given support as needed. We offer ongoing support to people we place, including supporting the family unit. Luke passed his probationary period and is doing well. His horizons have been broadened and you can see the difference in him”.

“ When I started to work with him there was a chance his family was going to have to uproot from Kidlington to elsewhere in Oxfordshire, It was a very uncertain time for him. He’d have been moving away from everything he knew and a pending paid job. I helped the family with a supporting statement, to assist their housing claim to make the case of staying in the area”.

“Luke is a great example of the type of work we do at Oxfordshire Employment and it’s wonderful that an organisation with a global profile like Oxford University is involved with us and has done such a good job working with Luke. It goes against the stereotype some people might have of the University somehow being aloof. Our experience while working with everyone at Pembroke College has been the total opposite. The staff I have worked with at Pembroke College have a great ethos for encouraging, supporting and enriching the learning experience at work”.

“It’s not just the University. We have built up long term relationships with many local employers, who employ people that we have introduced and supported. Oxfordshire Employment assisted 41 People with a disability or health condition into paid employment, between April 2017 to April 2018.”

Want to work?

Oxfordshire Employment is funded to offer support to anyone who has barriers in gaining employment. Anybody in Oxfordshire who is interested in learning more should speak to Oxfordshire Employment about being referred to our service and being put in touch with the most appropriate service the service offers. You can learn more about them here

As well as helping people directly into Employment with a range of employers, Oxfordshire Employment also operates County Print Finishers and offers paid work placements to help develop work skills and experience to prepare you for external employment.