We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone

Hey my name is SJ Buffrey, I’m 26 years old, and I am registered blind from birth. I’m writing this weeks post.

I’m currently doing a year’s internship at the University of Gloucestershire in HR as a placement alongside a NVQ in business and administration.

I would like to share with you my experiences, and the skills I have gained along with what the program has provided for me.

Since leaving college a couple of years back I have done a lot of courses to try and help me get into work but none have been helpful to me. I have also applied for a number of jobs and have had a few interviews, however I have never been successful. I felt I was not getting any support beforehand and no adjustments were made to ensure that I felt comfortable.

About 2 years ago I started on a project called the GEM (Going The Extra Mile) project and this is how I found out about the internship with Steps into Work via the National Star College (NSC). Both me and the people from the GEM project thought it would be an excellent opportunity for me to explore. This led to meetings at the National Star College and also with the HR team at the University of Gloucestershire before the start of my placement. My contacts from the HR Department were all very welcoming and were willing to make any adjustments to ensure that I could commence my placement.

I started the placement back in November 2018. I joined the University of Gloucestershire as I was keen to experience what it would be like to work as part of the HR team and the tasks they do on a daily basis. At first we had some struggles with the computers and the supernova software that I had for my computer (Supernova software magnifies the screen). We were able to obtain a trial of the software from Insight Gloucestershire (a local charity in Gloucestershire dedicated to supporting people living with sight loss or blindness.) It took a long time to get the software actually working on the computer which meant I could not make an immediate start on any of the tasks I had been given. After a conversation with the University’s own LTI department we were able to get the full software package. I received a lot of support from the HR team and we all worked together to get this problem solved.

So far my work has involved doing many different things. My main project has focused on staff probations. This has involved inputting information into an Excel spreadsheet, using Microsoft Outlook to send chaser emails to the correct managers. I also send emails to chase colleagues with their E-learning training and in turn replying to my colleagues.

I have learnt so much about Excel. Before I started I didn’t even know how to input information. Now I know how to input the correct information into the right columns and how to change the colour of the writing if needed. I have been taught how to use Outlook. This has included sending a basic email, replying to, forwarding on an email and attaching an item to an email. I have learnt how to use the calendar system, to input dates or time of different tasks I need to do, and schedule any training or appointments with work colleagues. I have been able to touch up on my telephone management skills, including answering the phone and taking messages which I then pass on to my colleagues. All of this has helped me develop strong customer service skills. I have had 1-2-1 IT lessons which has helped me navigate the computer. Including finding my way around shared folders.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays my tutor from NSC comes in to work with me on my NVQ in Business and Administration. I am really pleased as this will look good on my CV too.

All the staff at the University of Gloucestershire have been so welcoming and supportive. They are there to help if I’m ever stuck or just need a bit of advice, as well as supplying me with the correct equipment to ensure that I can work comfortably and I really appreciate this. It would be great if all employers were able to make the adjustments the HR team have made here.

Before Christmas I was matched with my little guide dog Gracie. This has meant Gracie also joining the HR team as I bring her to work with me each day. The staff in HR were so excited to have her in the office and they made all the adjustments that Gracie needed such as a place for her to have a rest in the day and a space so she can have a drink. Everyone is so good with her and she’s settled in to the work place really well. Gracie has helped boost my confidence a lot, she has made my commute to work easier and makes me happy every day.

I would recommend the Steps into Work programme to anyone who may be facing difficulties in gaining employment. It has provided me with invaluable HR experience and the opportunity to complete a NVQ.

Hi, I’m Laura, you may have read my blog where I introduced the Steps into Work programme. I believe SJ’s blog really demonstrates how beneficial the internships are to those who may struggling to get that first step into work or, getting back into work after a break. As SJ explains, she is gaining invaluable HR experience which is going to look fantastic on her CV ready for when she begins her job hunt in the summer. However, this placement has not just been invaluable for SJ; myself and the HR team have learnt an incredible amount about visual impairment and the adjustments required in the workplace. SJ is doing an excellent job for us and we look forward to her developing skills further over the next few months. If you are interested in offering a placement through the Steps into Work programme please contact me via ladlam@glos.ac.uk.


Allie says:

This is a great post SJ, it is great to have you as part of the team and watch your confidence grow each day 🙂

Kathryn W says:

Great work SJ and lovely to hear of your positive experience. Well done to colleagues in HR for joining in the Steps into Work programme and supporting the scheme, lets hope we can help many more like SJ get the experience they need – keep up the good work!

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