Unlocking the potential to succeed in the workplace

TO the casual observer, it is very much like any other contented workplace.

The staff are chatting, smiling and look genuinely happy.

A group of young men share a laugh as they paint garden furniture, while Greg and Anita are a bit quieter as they concentrate on making balloon weights.

But Asset is like no other business in Falkirk as all the people working there have learning difficulties.

The Falkirk Council-run support service aims to help them find employment.

Based in Tamfourhill Industrial Estate it boasts a workplace training area with three stations providing services and goods to the public.

The celebrations area creates beautiful gift boxes, balloon arrangements and wedding favours, the woodwork section makes garden furniture and the popular printing service provides invitations and business cards.

Asset manager Hazel Brooks said: "The items are made for members of the public and sold at a good price, but more important is the fact that we are providing a service for people with learning difficulties.

"We are helping them to unlock their potential and realise that they can get paid employment."

Asset helps people with learning disabilities by teaching them how the workplace functions and the importance of good time-keeping and attendance.

At the work training centre, the service users can pick up vital skills that will help them to get employment in the future.

Asset also assigns employment development officers to individuals to help them prepare for, and accompany them on, job interviews.

David Green-Laidlaw (19), from Denny, found a job through Asset and has been employed at the Key Store in Bonnybridge for the past month.

He said: "If it wasn't for Asset, I wouldn't have this job. My employment officer not only helped me to secure the job but also accompanied me on my first day to help me understand what I had to do in the role.

"My family are really happy that I've got a job and it will help me to pay my way when I go back to college next year."

As part of the project, service users are given work placements with employers to help them realise the type of job they want.

Hazel said: "People who use our service have gone on to get jobs in catering, refuse collection and as cleaners.

''Asda, in particular, have been very good for us. They have taken on workers on a paid basis and also allowed us to put people there on placements to get some work experience.

"I hope more employers realise the potential in hiring someone with a learning disability and take the leap of faith into the unknown.

''Traditionally people with learning difficulties didn't get to work, but we are changing society's perceptions and letting them know that, just because someone learns at a different pace, doesn't mean that they shouldn't have a job.

"People with learning difficulties have a lot to offer and really appreciate the opportunity not only to earn money but to be respected as a working member of society."