Thornbeck College

Thornbeck College is an Independent Specialist College providing personalised programmes to autistic and neurodivergent individuals

Working together to inspire, support, celebrate and equip autistic and neurodivergent people to fulfil their potential in life.

EVERYBODY at Thornbeck College knows that learner Will Smith is a friendly, polite and sociable young man. Now the public know it too - thanks to a work placement the 19-year-old is doing at Morrisons.

Watch Will's story below. 

Will has been working in the café at the store’s Darlington branch for several months, serving food, operating the till and keeping the place clean and tidy.

But it’s his customer service that is his main asset, according to Morrisons staff. Tessa Parker, café manager, says: “The customers love him – he will chat on with everybody.

He’s just a really nice young man to work with. He’s very polite, hard-working and willing to give anything a go. I think he’d be amazing in hospitality, he’s so social.

Will is on the Pathway to Work programme at Thornbeck College in Newton Aycliffe where he is learning catering and a variety of transferrable skills. The further education college says it has seen a big change in him since he started working at Morrisons one day a week.

Lee Simpson, quality manager at the college, says: “We’ve seen a big difference in his confidence, his communication skills and his ability to concentrate.

"He’s become quite independent in his role, so the staff supporting him can take more of a step back, further increasing his confidence. He’s been developing his travel training skills too."

Thornbeck College supports employers by training staff in autism awareness and advising them on how to become more inclusive for both staff and customers. Sometimes only slight adjustments are needed, such as giving Will a little extra time to learn how to do something for the first time.

It can make all the difference to a young person’s future, Lee says. “In the past couple of years at college, we’ve seen Will develop into a lovely, polite young man. I hope that continues and he becomes a happy, independent young man with employment and a bright future.”

Find out more about Thornbeck College