Five budding young chefs have been gaining valuable work experience by serving up special lunches this winter for older residents living at a sheltered housing scheme in County Durham.

The students from Gateshead College have been visiting Karbon Homes’ Castle Court in Annfield Plain – an independent living scheme for older people aged 55 and over, to serve freshly made sandwiches and hot soup, much to the delight of residents.

The students, aged 18-20, all have learning difficulties and/or disabilities and attend a live, learn and work course. Their work experience is delivered in partnership with Cambian Dilston College in Corbridge which provides further education, as well as day, short break and outreach services and work placements for young people with learning disabilities.

The students, who one day are hoping to gain employment in the catering industry, have been attending the scheme on Friday afternoons, using the on-site kitchen facilities at Castle Court to prepare and serve the sandwiches and soup at £2 each with over 30 residents taking up the offer.

The initiative is part of a five-day course delivered in partnership between the two colleges providing students with the chance to learn new skills for independence and work in their own community.

Deborah Kennedy, housing support officer for Karbon Homes, said: “The tenants are delighted with the service and the smiles the young people bring with them. It has become a very popular activity and the residents look forward to their Friday afternoons. The interaction between the generations is truly satisfying.”

Castle Court resident Raymond Robertson, said: “A couple of weeks ago, we were invited to a soup & sarnie event in our main lounge run by Gateshead College and Cambrian Dilston College. Quite a lot of our residents signed up and we were very pleased we did. Our lunch was served on nicely laid-out tables, by immaculately dressed staff.

"We had a choice of sandwich fillings, soup of the day and tea or coffee. Everyone enjoyed the meal, but better still, the welcoming smiles of our waiters and waitresses and all for just £2. Bring on next Friday.”

The students have been attending Castle Court for the last couple of weeks with their job coaches.

Carli Hayes, one of the coaches attending, said: “Work experience is one of the most beneficial areas a student can partake in whilst at college. Practical work placements allow the students to show off their existing skills and attributes to employers which not only gives the students self-confidence but often exceeds the expectations of employers.

“Through the medium of work experience, students are able to develop their interpersonal skills and self-presentation, along with a whole host of other skills which are constantly being shaped and developed for life after college. The students are constantly being challenged to improve their ability whilst accessing the world of work. The visible progress they have made already this year is a reflection of the importance of good quality work experience.”

Lorraine Kirby, curriculum leader at Gateshead College said: “Work experience placements are really useful to local employers such as Karbon Homes. They give companies access to skilled talent who offer fresh insights and perspectives and make a positive difference to their business, as the students did on the Castle Court project.

“These placements also equip young people with the skills, capabilities and experience that will help them get a job.”

Student Dylan Clark, aged 20 from Newcastle, said: “I enjoy working at the centre, meeting the people and providing a service back to the community. It has helped me improve my teamwork and communication skills and it is something I can use to help me find a job in the future.”

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