Developing a craft through Access to Work

Marcus is 22 and is enjoying his first "proper job" as a paid trainee glasscutter.

He is hand cutting crystal glassware at Kevin Barry Crystal, an independent business in the Ruskin Glass Centre attached to Glasshouse College, Stourbridge, the traditional home of British Crystal Glass.

Marcus_sectionIn his spare time, Marcus is a keen wildlife watcher and artist. He enjoys skiing, singing and horse riding.  He also has autism and has worked hard through school and college to overcome the social and communication challenges his autism brings.

Throughout his school career in Worcestershire, Marcus was well supported through autism bases attached to mainstream primary and high schools, but found it difficult to participate in the formal curriculum.

After a one-year specialist 6th form life skills course at a Worcestershire special school, he found his niche at the Ruskin Mill Trust, Glasshouse College in Stourbridge, where he was a student from 2010 - 2013. The practical skills therapeutic curriculum allowed Marcus to thrive in the woodland, farm and craft workshop settings. He also loved the music and drama. In his graduation speech Marcus summed up his experience:

I am glad that all of you have treated me with such respect. What made me come here was that I was fascinated by what craftsmanship is all about. I have achieved many goals such as…how to work in glassmaking, making things out of different materials and trying to follow instructions… But my ultimate achievement was taking the lead in the Pericles play.

Marcus was keen to continue developing his craft and animal care skills when he left college. Thanks to the innovative approach of the Glasshouse College, Kevin Barry Crystal, the Worcestershire Post 16 LLDD Inclusion and Assessment Education team and the Community Intervention Social Care team, Marcus was able to follow his chosen pathway. Funding from education and social care was pooled with a personal contribution to enable Marcus to follow a "Pathway to Employment" programme for the academic year 2103-14.

This involved 3 days a week on an extended work placement with Kevin Barry Crystal. There, Marcus continued learning to hand cut crystal under the watchful eye of Kevin Barry Adams, a highly skilled and experienced craftsman. Kevin operates a work placement programme for young people with a range of special needs, including autism, to develop their skills as craftsmen, so they can play a part in helping to maintain the future of the hand cut crystal industry.  Kevin has specialised skills at supporting young people with autism and a range of special needs, gained over 10 years working with Glasshouse students.

A fourth day each week was spent in College on literacy and numeracy skills and with Digit Print, a social enterprise run by Ruskin Mill Trust. Here Marcus learned to develop marketing material to sell the ICE crystal range, a Kevin Barry Crystal design in which Marcus specialises and from which he gained his work nickname, "Iceman". Working one day a week on the LandEd care farm in Astwood Bank, Redditch, funded by his Personal Budget, rounded off Marcus' programme and allowed him time outdoors honing his animal husbandry skills.

Marcus's work was on display last summer at KPMG's offices in Birmingham as part of their support for the Disability Confident campaign. KPMG also arranged for Kevin Barry Crystal to have a stand to share Marcus' work at National Grid's June conference promoting its supported internship programme.

Marcus started working with Kevin Barry Crystal on 1st September. The employment is supported through Access to Work for transport costs and in work support. Marcus was part of the Worcestershire County Council pilot scheme on Education, Health and Care Plans.

The Post 16 LLDD Inclusion and Assessment Education Team and the Community Intervention Social Care Team worked together to ensure that Marcus' plan met his needs. By focusing on employment, the Plan also addressed the employment priority highlighted in the Adult Autism Strategy.