Mencap work experience scheme comes to Hilton hotel

Youngsters who have learning disabilities are set to get a taste of hospitality work as part of a new trial. Hotel work such as reception and housekeeping duties form part of the pilot at the Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 hotel.

This September, 12 young people from Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College will begin work experience at the Heathrow venue.

It is set to become the first UK hotel to try a scheme from Mencap and Ealing Council based on an American model called SEARCH which lets youngsters spend the final year of school working instead of in class.

"By helping these young people into work we are raising expectations of what they can achieve. Not only is the scheme helping young people gain valuable experience, it is also opening up life choices," said Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 general manager, Meredith Bevan.

She explained that the hotel would place youngster in its departments in roles their skills match. Those taking part in the project will be assessed on a continuing basis, given support and provided with targets.

Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 HR director, Caroline Lowe, explained that sadly under seven per cent of the young people who have learning disabilities go into paid work after their education is completed.

"We have a duty to challenge that statistic and this experience empowers those young people to seek employment," she said.

When they have reached their last year of education, most students have done all of their academic study, so the time with the hotel will offer them genuine work experience, she said.

Not only will the hotel see benefit from the enthusiasm and contribution of those taking part, but the activity will support the dismantling of barriers and change perceptions people have, she said, adding: "Everyone has been positive about the scheme and we are excited to be welcoming the students in the autumn."

Mencap work with individuals who have learning disabilities, offering services to help them live the way they wish to, it says. Its efforts range from mounting campaigns to providing things like helplines.

Berkeley Scott is a specialist recruitment agency to help source hospitality recruitment jobs.