In our latest Jobseeker Spotlight, we are shining the light onto Lydia! Lydia is one of our Engage to Change participants who came to ELITE’s attention in late 2018. The 21-year-old based out of Port Talbot and Bridgend had struggled to find work since leaving education. Although she is a very capable young individual, Lydia has additional barriers to overcome when it comes to employment. With learning difficulties, a Dancing Eye Syndrome (DES) diagnosis and social anxiety, Lydia came to ELITE to see how we could assist her into employment.

After an initial meeting with our Employment Advisor team, it became very clear that Lydia had the ability to gain employment – there were just one or two difficulties that she had to overcome. Another fact that came across very clearly was Lydia’s passion for animals. A cat-owner herself, Lydia expressed a desire to find employment within animal care or animal grooming. With our team on the case, ELITE found an opening at Pencoed College – Lydia was offered the position of Animal Care Assistant shortly after! The first obstacle to overcome for Lydia was getting to grips with her new commute – the round-trip from Bridgend to Pencoed and back relies on public transport, something which Lydia had slight reservations about. With the assistance of our Employment Advisor Ruby, the pair began planning the route online ensuring that Lydia had the correct bus timetable and knew the duration of each trip. Taking it step-by-step, both Ruby and Lydia began the travel training process with Ruby joining Lydia on each trip. As the weeks progressed, Ruby began withdrawing to the point that Lydia could carry out each leg of the journey independently without Ruby’s input or presence!

When it came to the work itself, Lydia showed that the duties and responsibilities of being an Animal Care Assistant were well within her abilities! It became apparent that the only obstacle holding her back was her social anxiety. With Ruby once again on the scene, Lydia was able to get through induction with no incident as she developed a closer bond with her new colleagues at Pencoed College. It didn’t take Lydia too long to get settle in, jumping straight into her first work item… clearing out the snake cages! While many would back away from such an intense experience, Lydia got stuck in and before long was holding the snake in her hand (much to the horror of an Ophidiophobic Ruby who watched from a far distance!) Since Lydia started working at Pencoed College in June 2019, she has excelled within her role while making positive steps to improve her social anxiety. Working to monitor and maintain a wide variety of animals including donkeys, alpacas, rabbits, chickens and guinea pigs, Lydia has shown she has what it takes to work in this environment. When we caught up with our Employment Advisor Ruby, she had this to say on Lydia’s road to employment:

“It is nice to see her working as part of a team overcoming her social anxiety. She has always wanted to work with animals, so that acted as a good incentive for Lydia to do something she loved while working on any issues regarding social interaction. It’s the perfect fit for her – it’s great to see how confident she has become in the role in such as short space of time… along as she keeps the snakes away from me then I’d happily work alongside Lydia any day!”

With Lydia now part of a busy Animal Care Team at Pencoed College, she has the chance to further develop her teamwork and communication skills. At the time of writing, ELITE are immensely pleased with her progress and cannot wait to see where her newfound confidence, experience and skills can take her!