Charming, polite and dedicated, Michael Powell, 22, is a Housekeeper on Forrest Ward at Torbay Hospital.
He is responsible for ordering and serving patient drinks and meals, ensuring medical supplies are well stocked, making up patient beds, and keeping the ward clean and tidy.
Michael found his job through Project SEARCH, an internship programme run at Torbay Hospital that helps young people with learning disabilities to find work. The interns work in a range of departments over an academic year to develop their skills and confidence.
Michael’s first placement was on Forrest ward and he soon became a valued member of the team due to his incredible work ethic, friendly nature and witty sense of humour. Within three weeks Michael had made such an impression that the Ward Manager encouraged him to apply for a weekend housekeeper role. The Pluss team helped Michael to complete the job application and prepare for interview by planning for the kind of questions he might be asked.
Michael was successful at interview and started paid work on New Year’s Eve (now that’s dedication!)
Michael has Asperger syndrome.
“When I first started Project SEARCH I really wanted to find work. I was really keen to work in a hospital and keep myself busy – I don’t like doing nothing.
“I had tried to look for work before. I did lots of courses but nothing came of it. I was very disappointed. I wasn’t happy and my confidence was really down. I was at home a lot and I just wanted to work.
“I have Asperger’s syndrome (a form of autism). This means I can sometimes be anxious. I also didn’t make friends at school. I spoke to people but afterwards I didn’t see anyone. It was really hard – not having anyone to speak to.
“Now I am in work my confidence has gone up again. I really like my job. I am hard working, reliable, always want to get the job right and have good attention to detail. I am helpful and I like the people too.
“Project SEARCH gave me a really good start. They helped me with the job application and prepare for interview. It was also very helpful to have done the internship here so I knew what to expect. I was very happy when I got the job. They told me straight away and my Mum was very proud.
“More recently, I was looking after a patient and I saw her again after her hospital stay. She recognised me and told me how well I had looked after her. It makes me feel that I left a good impression.
“Since being in work, my confidence has grown and I am now supported to live part-time in Torquay.
“I would say to anyone else to just keep on trying to find the right job for you. One day it will come. I have had my ups and downs but I am here now.”
Corrine Jackson, Senior Sister, Forrest Ward, Torbay Hospital
“Michael is really approachable and he fitted into the team in an instant. He is always happy and has a nice relaxed persona, he doesn’t get stressed.
“The other staff and patients really like him. He is reliable and will do whatever is asked of him. He is a hard worker and never says no but if he’s not sure he always asks. This makes him a very safe practitioner which is so important.
“It’s also really impressive that he is so committed and willing to work weekends. He even started on News Years Eve.
“Since Michael has worked here he has grown up a lot, gained in confidence and carries himself differently. He also has a wicked sense of humour and always has a little smile! We are very proud of him and we were all delighted that he came to our Christmas party.”
Project SEARCH is run in partnership by Pluss, Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust and South Devon College. It is funded by Pluss and Torbay Council.