From education to employment

Autistic Apprentice overcomes years of anxiety and sleep deprived nights as a teenager, to reap professional success

Bradley Spencer Farthing-Kiff, from Bury St Edmunds, spent four years at West Suffolk College, enrolled on various courses, wondering what he would do once he finished, but couldn’t forecast a clear future where he would feel confident in a professional field. For three years alongside his studies, Bradley worked part-time in the retail industry for two household names and continued to do so a year after finishing education. During this time, he recognised a strong desire to try something else.

Identified as having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at three and a half years old, Bradley’s mum saw a noticeable difference in his speech and interactions with other toddlers at two years old. Soon after, assessments began at nursery level, which eventually resulted in his diagnosis and since then, Bradley has faced judgement and a lack of understanding from individuals in a work and personal setting.

Shortly after his stint in retail, Bradley was excited to join West Suffolk Council, after applying online for two roles, having two interviews, and then being offered both positions. Bradley accepted the position as Apprentice Business Support on a Level 3 Apprenticeship programme in Business Administration in January 2020, where combining work and learning was to be his new reality. Nervous about what felt like a major challenge, Bradley was trepidatious about balancing course work and the tasks expected of him at the council, especially with ASD. The loyalty and encouragement of his Skills Tutor, Vanessa Godden from Qube Learning, a leading national Recruitment and Training Solutions Provider, has seen his abilities to learn rapidly grow and now, at 21 years old Bradley says: ‘The biggest hurdle I have faced living with autism is feeling so different to everyone else, performing differently in exams, processing information much slower, I felt I really stood out. I also suffered from stress and anxiety in 2011, I was at Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and was referred to the adolescent unit at Stowmarket to get extra help. I was particularly worried about PE, so the specialist at CAMHS signed me off the class.

Also suffering with bad sleep in my teens, I didn’t feel safe in my own home and I was constantly worrying about people breaking in. I always checked to see if the doors were locked, that’s how bad it got. I also have type 1 diabetes and was diagnosed at the age of eight. The high blood glucose impacted on my stress and anxiety, so that took a bit of time to get under control, and don’t get me started on the hormone stage! So, having this condition and autism to deal with is a lot on my shoulders, but the support from my Employer, Qube Learning, colleagues, friends, and family, especially my mum, is invaluable as it really keeps me going. It has been an uphill climb, but I am incredibly proud of being nominated West Suffolk Apprentice of the year 2020 and how far I have come, I hope my story inspires others with autism to keep going and remember they are an equal to anyone!’

Bradley is encouraged by the prospect of his career continuing to prosper and looks to embark on Level 3 diploma in Business Administration, with Qube Learning. Working at the council, he no longer feels at a disadvantage with his disability but is supported by his peers, who have taken the time to learn about him, his background and experience with ASD. Passing his driving test and getting best maths student of the year in 2017, he can now look back and see his own merits and is hopeful for more reasons to celebrate in the future.

Qube Learning is a proud to be an OFSTED grade 2 (Good) Recruitment and Training Solutions Provider that works with hundreds of Employers across the country to deliver a range of training and qualifications to a multitude of Students. If you are interested in finding out more about the positive opportunities an Apprenticeship or Traineeship can bring, through Qube Vision and eLearning, either as a Student or an Employer, then speak with the experts at Qube Learning.

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