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Disabled man in Thatcham shortlisted for National Employability Award

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A Thatcham man with cerebral palsy has been recognised for his achievements in securing himself a job despite facing “barriers to employment”.

21-year-old Theo Thomas-Alfonso, has not only obtained a role as an administration apprentice but he has also been shortlisted for Significant Achievement of the Year at the national ERSA employability awards, which take place today (Thursday).

Following three years of unemployment, Theo, who wears hearing aids in both ears, uses specialist software to help him communicate and is in a wheelchair, believed his disabilities were holding him back in finding a suitable job.

Theo Thomas-Alfonso. Picture by: Fedcap Emplyment. (53301115)
Theo Thomas-Alfonso. Picture by: Fedcap Emplyment. (53301115)

However, with a little help from employment support organization, Fedcap, Theo has now been able to work in an environment where he feels “safe and secure.”

In addition to the increasingly tough labour market, finding work in the middle of a pandemic didn’t make things easier, and so he voluntarily enrolled on a work and health programme.

Mr Thomas-Alfonso said that it’s “not easy” to build up workplace experience when faced with barriers.

He said: “When you have barriers to employment, you do fear long term unemployment or maybe even being unemployed for a lifetime, because it is not easy to build initial workplace experience like others can by doing things like being a waiter.

“I couldn't claim to have done customer service or had experience in basic workplace tasks, so I had to make the most of the experience I had been given by school with one week work placements."

He added: “I have found the perfect employer and the perfect job for me, as well as my capabilities, and that is the real prize.”

Because of his disabilities, Theo can only communicate through digital means but with face to face meetings being replaced with email, messages or YouTube presentations, he was able to identify potential employers.

With in-work support in place and a series of reasonable work adjustments made, he is now working a job “he loves” at AND Digital in Reading.

Employment coach Amarjit Bassan praised Theo saying that he was always “optimistic and motivated” in finding employment.

He said: “Theo has never been one to complain or blame his health conditions for the knock-backs he had received.

“In fact, he has always been very focused and hugely proactive in trying to move forward into employment.”

He added: “Despite a number of negative rejections following his interviews, Theo has always been open to receiving constructive feedback.

“Taking that feedback on board, he’s always reflected and learned from it.”

The ERSA Employability Awards, now in its ninth year, celebrates the hard work and dedication of those working to improve the lives of job seekers, communities and the wider workforce, and this year it is recognising the work of people during the coronavirus pandemic.

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