From education to employment


As part of #WorldAutismAwarenessWeek (29 March – 4 April), @DFNSEARCH is sharing the story of twin brothers and current interns who, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, applied and were successful in joining the frontline at their local hospital.  

DFN Project SEARCH interns and twin brothers, Conrad and Will Nock, are now part of the frontline team at Royal Stoke University Hospital, playing an important role as key workers in the continued fight against COVID-19.

The 20-year-old brothers joined the hospital as porters, having already gained experience of the role through Staffordshire’s first ever DFN Project SEARCH supported internships scheme. The 12-month programme is open to 18 to 25-year-olds and has been run in partnership with Newfriars College, University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM) NHS Trust and Sodexo UK & Ireland. 

Conrad and Will completed three student work placements at UHNM NHS Trust, with the opportunity to experience a wide variety of roles from catering and administration, to acting as ward assistants. As part of the scheme, skilled and knowledgeable colleagues from the placement hospital were assigned to each student acting as a buddy. The student’s work placements were also supported by ongoing classroom-based activities at Newfriars College.

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and the UK Government’s safety restrictions, the pair’s college had to put the scheme on hold. However, the brothers acted swiftly, and both successfully applied to join the bank staff at Royal Stoke University Hospital. 

The brothers are thrilled to be starting the jobs with Sodexo as casual hospital porters.

Will says: “I couldn’t wait to work there again. I just wanted to go back and help out. I’ve been amazed at how much I like working at the hospital. All my buddies there were really proud of me. Everyone treated me like an adult, like I was just another person coming to work. Getting this job has changed my life and I have been able to go out and buy gifts for my little sister and mum. I’ve learned how to help people and make a difference within the community. Today, we are general porters and that entails tasks like logistics, transferring patients, blood collection and delivery. Working for Sodexo has been amazing, we are still enjoying it and we honestly think anyone who joins the DFN Project SEARCH programme would benefit and enjoy it just as much as we have.” 

Conrad says: “It was my dream to get a full-time job here. When we first started, we were DFN Project SEARCH students, we had support from the start to enable us to gain confidence and experience on how to interact with others. I had lots of support from Sodexo managers, supervisors helped me. My colleagues continue to support me when I’m not sure about something. I have learned a lot from being here and it has helped me grow as a person. I used to be isolated without friends before, but I can interact with others now and I know how to make friends. If my younger self met me now, I don’t think I would be able to recognise myself. I still can’t believe it’s real.”  

Mrs M Nock, the brothers’ mother, added: “Conrad & William were shy boys as children, they would not leave the house alone or speak to people they did not know but since joining the internship programme they have come out of their shell and have grown into young men. They have gained confidence to do things alone and the programme has helped them to gain employment at the hospital which I don’t think would have happened without it. They have had fantastic encouragement and support. Leaving early in the morning, sometimes not getting in till late but always with a smile on their face. Thank you to Sodexo & DFN Project SEARCH.”

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