SPECIAL needs youngsters are learning all about the world of work thanks to a Sunderland firm.
Pump manufacturer Grundfos struck up a special relationship with Portland Academy, which caters for secondary-aged pupils with special needs, six years ago.
Now, the Ferryboat Lane-based company is hosting weekly work experience placements for Portland students, with both company and school finding the regular visits richly rewarding.
Rachel Chaffe, leader of parents, community and business at the Chapelgarth school, said: “The placements offered to our students are heavily supported by a fantastic and dedicated team of mentors who support our students throughout their time at Grundfos.”
The placements have been designed in blocks of six weeks with students attending one day a week.
Rachel added: “We find that this benefits our students more than the conventional one or two week placements that mainstream students tend to be placed on, as it gives our students the opportunity to carry out tasks and improve on them week by week.
“All of the students that we have had pass through the Grundfos doors have had valuable experiences within a real work setting.
“Not only have they carried out duties that they wouldn’t ordinarily get the opportunity to experience in school, they have grown in self esteem and confidence.
“The students also have their eyes opened to the world of work and meet new people. The mentors and other staff working at Grundfos have commented on how they have had their eyes opened to how capable many of the students are in carrying out tasks that are asked of them,”
Rachel said to top it all the students love the tea and toast they get on arrival at work and also the lunches served in the canteen.
Lee Carlin, general manager at Grundfos, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary in the city this year, said: “We really value the relationship we have with Portland and the opportunity to help and develop the academy’s students.
“Grundfos colleagues really enjoy working with the students and the school, to the extent that June Torgersen, our production director, is a governor at the academy.
“We think of ourselves as a Sunderland company and this is a meaningful, practical way of putting something back into the community.”