Gulliver’s interns make a lasting impression

Gulliver’s Valley has linked up with a leading transition to employment charity to give young people with learning disabilities and autism vital work experience.

The Rotherham theme park is working with a group of students from Rotherham Opportunities College as part of a programme called DFN Project SEARCH.

DFN Project SEARCH is an international transition to work programme committed to transforming the lives of young people with learning disabilities and autism spectrum conditions. It centres on creating work opportunities and harnessing the talent of an often untapped, yet willing workforce by providing an extensive period of skills training and career exploration, innovative adaptations, long-term job coaching, and continuous feedback from instructors, job coaches and employers.

The programme also provides real-life work experience combined with training in employability and independent-living skills to help young people make successful transitions to productive adult life.

To support the work of the initiative Gulliver’s Valley currently has six interns, all from Rotherham and aged between 19 and 24, working at the resort in a variety of roles including in retail areas, cleaning, housekeeping, basic maintenance and animal care.

Running alongside the work-based training programme, the interns have classroom time where they continue their studies of subjects such as maths and English but also learn other practical life skill lessons such as customer service, financial literacy, health and safety awareness, communication skills and confidence building. The focus is to help equip the individuals with the skills to gain permanent employment in the future.

One of the current interns is Emily Coombs, aged 22. Emily said: “I have really enjoyed working at Gulliver’s Valley. We have done a wide range of roles here from stock taking and sorting deliveries to park care, working on the till in the retail area, managing the slush station and working on some rides. Every day is really different which means you are never bored and there is always something to do!

“There are challenges each day but working to overcome them really helps build your confidence so that you know you can deal with situations you may not usually have to face. The social side of working with the other interns has also been great and I have made some good friends as it is a real team approach. The tutors from College and the Gulliver’s staff here are also very supportive and they trust us to do a good job so you feel relaxed and welcomed.

“I definitely feel more confident and prepared for full time work in the future and am proud of myself and how far we have all come in the time we have been here.”

Laura Bladon who works at Gulliver’s Valley and supervises the interns in their daily roles, said: “We have been so pleased to welcome this initial group of interns into the Gulliver’s family. They have been an absolute credit to themselves and we hope they have learnt as much from us as we have from them.

“They’ve been given the opportunity here to work in all areas of our business so they can get a real understanding of what working in the leisure and hospitality industry is like. There could be job possibilities at the end of each programme we run here at Gulliver’s Valley so that is also a great incentive for those who do well and enjoy the work. Once this current intake finish in September, we will be working with a new group so it’s a long term commitment from us.

“Inclusivity is vital to us and we always said that our aim for Gulliver’s Valley was for the park to become a really important part of our community providing jobs and opportunities for local people, including those who may find it difficult to get into the job market. We work closely with each individual to understand them and help support them the best we can to do the jobs in hand.”

Lauren Jeavons, tutor at Rotherham Opportunities College, said: “It has been wonderful to work with Gulliver’s Valley and our students have progressed so much in that time.

“Most of our students have learning difficulties which means it does take them longer to process change and retain information. Some of them also have difficulties with building their confidence around unfamiliar people but this is why this experience at Gulliver’s is so important as it is a positive foot in the door and we are able to work on these particular things so when they do become employed it is an easier transition for them.

“We’d like to thank the Gulliver’s team for being so welcoming to our group and their support and encourage anyone who wants to find out more about Rotherham Opportunities College and our employability programme to get in touch with us.”

For more information about Rotherham Opportunities College and the DFN Project SEARCH programme contact: [email protected].

For more information about Gulliver’s Valley please visit:

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