I want to use my success to challenge the stereotypes that some people have.
‘Aim High’ is the heartfelt message of 19 year old Rebecca Jackson from Heywood in Rochdale who has just landed her dream job with restaurant group The Ivy Collection and is the youngest pastry chef working in their new brasserie in Greater Manchester.
Rebecca, who has Asperger syndrome, wants to highlight her employment success to inspire other job seekers and to encourage employers to keep an open mind when a potential candidate explains that they have a managed disability or health issue.
“I received my diagnosis of Asperger syndrome when I was still at school,” explained Rebecca. “Now I want to use my success to challenge the stereotypes that some people have.”
After being unemployed for more than a year, Rebecca was referred by Michelle Lowery at Heywood Jobcentre Plus to Working Well (Work and Heath Programme), delivered in Rochdale by Ingeus. It is an initiative commissioned by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and receives support from the European Social Fund.
Rebecca received help from specialist Ingeus key worker Shaid Shakoor who put together a package of assistance that enabled her to further improve her social interaction and interview skills, gain work experience and boost her self-confidence.
“Although Rebecca had gained qualifications in patisserie baking and making confectionary, she had not been able to find employment,” said Shaid. “We placed Rebecca in a temporary paid role to initially gain work experience as a catering assistant at a local café. She also attended confidence building workshops and role play exercises and gained further assurance as we ran through practice interview sessions and work-place scenarios. I then arranged for her to attend an interview at The Ivy which was recruiting staff for its new restaurant in Manchester.”
The group of glamourous, yet accessible restaurants describes its nationwide venues as The Ivy Collection. The newly opened Ivy Spinningfields includes a ground floor brasserie, first floor private dining room, an Asian bar and restaurant on the second floor and a roof terrace garden.
“I am just so thrilled, I can hardly believe that I’m a pastry chef at The Ivy Spinningfields,” commented Rebecca. “I had the right support from Ingeus and I just kept on applying for the vacancies that they suggested. Now I feel I really have my dream job.
“It’s daunting getting to know people at first, but after taking a deep breath you just take things slowly. In the kitchens it is a real team effort and my managers are pleased with my work. They know about my diagnosis and it makes no difference to them or my other work colleagues. That’s how it should be. It’s always important to maintain your confidence and aim high.”